Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Koukourarata - On the Edge of the Bay

Koukourarata-Port Levy. 2007. Ajr
You come upon Koukourarata -Port Levy - quite suddenly; up and over the high winding roads of the north face of Banks Peninsular and down to a sleepy spread of tiny houses hanging on to the pebbly shoreline of a tranquil bay. Koukourarata Marae sits at the far end of the road - a cluster of buildings on a grassy slope overlooking a stony beach and a pretty jetty. It’s home to the people of Te Runanga o Koukourarata. Koukourarata was the largest Maori settlement in Canterbury in the mid-1800s with a population of around 400 people. Back then, Maori from Koukourarata bartered shark and other kai moana for eels caught by hapu from Waihora and Wairewa over the hills; and tons of dried fish were carried inland to trade. It was also the site of the first Maori Anglican church in Canterbury (Te Whare Karakia Mihinare ki Puari) and the first Native School, which operated from 1924 to 1932. The Tutehuarewa Hall (whare) was built in 1924-25 and named Tutehuarewa after an ancestress. It is rare for a woman’s name to be bestowed upon a whare tipuna; it is customarily a male privilege.

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