News & Events

Proverbs to add to city recreational attraction

Tuesday March 16 2021

A new attraction that connects recreation activity with our multicultural community will be launched in Palmy on Sunday 21 March, which is also Race Relations Day.

Photo shows three men standing next to a metalwork sign depicting native birds and one of the proverbs, with the river in the background.

Argo Engineering’s Dan Bossom (left) and Arthur Horne, with artist Ephraim Russell alongside Russell’s waka kererū design at the top of the second stairway, accessed from Vaucluse Heights.

Palmerston North City Council has supported the creation of He Kupu Rangatira – The Proverb Pathway on Te Arapiki a Tāne – The Stairway of Tāne. Rangitāne and the Manawatū Multicultural Council are joining us for the launch at 1pm. The public is invited to discover the 12 proverbs for themselves.

Te Arapiki a Tāne is two sets of steps that take you from Te Motu o Poutoa – Anzac Park and Vaucluse Heights to the Manawatū awa (river). One set is 207 steps and the other is 220.

Community Development Manager Joann Ransom says He Kupu Rangatira is for the public to explore and enjoy. It celebrates our bicultural foundations and our multiculturally diverse city, with proverbs selected from ones submitted by the community.

“It supports community unity through the wisdom of proverbs from around the world.”

The project evolved from a 2015 initiative involving Palmerston North City Library and Massey University’s School of Humanities, Media and Creative Communication and Te Putahi-a-Toi School of Māori Knowledge.

The proverbs appear in the language of origin, with a te reo Māori equivalent, and an English translation. There are 10 languages represented over 12 signs – three are Māori proverbs.

“Proverbs are products of popular culture that share folk wisdom in a few words, reflecting cultural values. They are a great way to engage people in culture-bridging dialogue,” Ransom says.

Mayor Grant Smith says He Kupu Rangatira is a wonderful addition to our city. “This is part of us wearing our Welcoming Community credentials on our sleeve by drawing from the established wisdom of the many cultures that call Palmy home.”

Of note is a Māori proverb inscribed on tile at the top of first stairway (closest to Te Motu o Poutoa). This is a proverb of importance to Rangitāne: Tini whetū ki te rangi, ko Rangitāne ki te whenua / Like the multitude of stars in the heavens, so is the greatness of Rangitāne upon the earth.

Some of the proverbs are in larger artistic forms beside the steps, with Rangitāne artist Ephraim Russell (Ngati Hineaute) creating three corten steel designs, to represent Māori, Fijian and German proverbs.

Others are inscribed in tile, appear in signs beside the steps or on stair risers, or form the backs of seats. UCOL Workhub design students contributed to the initial project concept, with work being carried out by city firm Argo Engineering.

Russell says being involved in the project has allowed him to contribute works that are an important reference as part of the greater Tanē narrative. Each of his works has stairway symbolism – “relating to ascending to the heavens for knowledge”.

“It was fun drawing ideas from the proverbs themselves to create a body of work.”

Argo engineer-designer Arthur Horne, who worked on elements such as the stretching post and seats, said that working on He Kupu Rangatira – The Proverb Pathway was “like leaving a legacy, it’s something I can take my kids past”.

The firm overcame challenges to install the proverbs, such as moving heavy concrete and tiles down the stairway, but the effort has been worthwhile. “The people who passed by just love it.”

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) funding for Welcoming Communities activities ($10,000) was given to create the pathway content. Council contributed funding to install the components, Ransom says.

The Ephraim Russell proverb designs

  • Māori: Top of second stairway – waka kererū design.
    Speaks to diversity: Koekoe te kōkō, ketekete te kākā, kūkū te kereru / The tūī sings, the parrot chatters, the pigeon coos.
  • Fijian: Bottom of second stairway – includes a stylised metal flower (the official national flower of Fiji is the Tagimaucia).
    Speaks to attitude and work ethic: Dui seva ga na bua ka tea / He kai kei aku ringaringa / You harvest the flowers you sow.
  • German: Third of the way down the first stairway in a wave-koru design.
    Speaks to attitude and risk taking: Wer nicht wagt, der nicht gewinnt / Kia oke ururoatia / Who doesn't dare, doesn't win.