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Graduate Bridges the Cultural Gap

May 30, 2018

Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design graduate Jasmine Ruru didn’t think she was capable of tertiary study.  Now the 22-year-old says enrolling at EIT was probably the best decision of her life. 

Jasmine enjoyed EIT so much she signed up this year to study the Bachelor of Professional Creative Practice (Honours) and hopes to progress to the Master of Professional Creative Practice next year.

Topping her art class at Taihape Area School, she also passed UE but drifted away from learning and “more towards doodles and social life”.  After leaving school, she waitressed at a Taihape café. 

“It wasn’t a very fulfilling life,” she says. “The café itself was lovely and the staff also, but something was missing.”

Wanting to explore her creativity, she joined the local drama club.  “It reminded me how good it felt to be creative and to be surrounded by creative people.”

Moving to Napier with her partner Te Awa Transom-Kerr, she looked online at what EIT had to offer and opted for the 12-week Certificate in Applied Art.

“From the first day I was sold, and I’ve never changed my mind since.  It lit a flame inside.  I probably made more art works in those 12 weeks than I’d ever made previously.

“The tutors were so different from my previous experience of art teachers, and even what I thought of as art was flipped upside down.  Students are encouraged to experiment which really excited me.”

Jasmine was keen to explore deeper into the new world she had become part of.  Although she was daunted by the prospect of degree study, ideaschool encouraged her to step up and she found her worries fading away once she started the programme.  

While Jasmine is of Te Aitanga ā Mahaki descent, her family had moved away from their ancestral homeland in Gisborne and she grew up not knowing how she fitted in as a Māori. 

“But being Māori, my culture has followed me around, leaking its influences even though I didn’t know it.  You can’t escape your roots.”

Thinking about connecting with Māoritanga through her art, she worried about her lack of knowledge and past experiences with her own culture.  

“I was scared to talk about something I didn’t know much about, but I am learning and that is helping my practice and soul.”

She received affirmation and support from Gary Whiting, a Māori artist who specialises in photography and film.

“He comes to ideaschool as often as he can to help and support students.  Gary told me to go for it, he encouraged me to explore.  He offered me guidance, support and knowledge.  I am so grateful.”

For her final-year degree project, Jasmine retold the Māori story of creation, the separation of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, in a claymation film. Using plasticine, she shaped forms to photograph and then ran the images on as a sequence to create a continuous narrative.

Jasmine has still to firm up this year’s project.  “It could be anything,” the mainly 3D art student says, “but it will be primarily aimed at the disconnect people may be experiencing with their culture, using the stories of our ancestors.”