Ruāmoko Marae

Ko Ruamoko – It is Ruamoko, Koropupu – Who makes the geysers burst, Ana te wai – The water boil, Ruana te whenau e! – Who makes even the Earth tremble!

Ruāmoko Marae takes its first breath

Opening of Ruāmoko Marae, 1992. Rachel McKee, Pat te Paa, Fonofili Va’alepu, John Wood, Darkie Graham.

Ruāmoko Marae was opened on the 4th December 1992 at Kelston Deaf Education Centre (KDEC) as a cultural learning environment for Deaf students to learn about Te Ao Maori or the Maori World. Since its opening it has become much more than that, in particular to the Maori Deaf community throughout NZ.


Naming the Marae

KDEC Marae for the Deaf, Western Leader, 7.12.1992. Article on the opening of Ruamoko Marae.

Ruāmoko means “unborn child” and the God of Earthquakes. The Marae was named Ruāmoko at least in part because the floor were used to gain attention by stamping, sending tremors through the floorboards.

Te Kaitiaki (caretaker) of the Marae Michael Wi explains “Ruamoko makes the earth move and by doing so gets the attention of all creatures. This is a Deaf way too, Deaf people stamp on the floor to get attention because this sends vibrations through wooden boards”.

The sign for Ruāmoko is made by spreading both hands out and shaking them from left to right like an earthquake.


Learning at Ruamoko

1997 Ruamoko Entry Carvings. Ivan Tamepo explaining the meaning behind the carvings to Kelston students, Zachary Best, Dylan Louie, Ryan Cassidy and James Pole.

Ruāmoko plays a critical role in educating Deaf children from all over New Zealand about maori culture and tikanga. The Marae has been supported by not only the KDEC board, but also by Maori Deaf leaders who are able to use Ruāmoko to engage with students.

Rebuilding the whare

1992 Ruamoko Carving. Hilda Tamepo, Bill Katu, Bradley Poutai, Joseph Sua.

Ruāmoko Marae is fondly known as the “Heart of KDEC”. As Deaf awareness of Maori culture has grown and evolved so has the need to rebuild the whare “Ruamoko” for the Deaf, Maori and Hearing communities of the future. The establishment of a new Maori centre of excellence is one of KDEC’s priorities for 2015/2016.

Knighted kaumatua (Te Arawa) Sir Toby Curtis, Kuia Dame June Mariu (Te Whanau a Apanui) and Rev Judy Cooper (Ngati Hine) have graciously accepted to become patrons of the Ruamoko rebuild.

International visitors

4 May 2009. The World Federation of the Deaf board in front of the Ruāmoko Marae. (Source: Kelston Deaf Education Centre)
4 May 2009. The World Federation of the Deaf board given a Ruāmoko welcome. (Source: Kelston Deaf Education Centre)

Ruāmoko Marae is the only Deaf marae of its kind in the world. Over the years Ruāmoko Marae has had many visitors from all around New Zealand including Ministers of Parliament and international guests including the Board of the World Federation of the Deaf.