Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Meet the People - 16

Another in the Series Meet the People – Contemporary Maori Doing Ordinary and Extraordinary Things – William Pepere (Ngati Porou), surprised me greatly when he turned the key in the lock of the rear door of St Mary’s Church, in the tiny East Cape township of Tikitiki. It was 8.30 on a Sunday morning and I had called in to see this exquisite example of traditional Maori craftsmanship. There wasn’t a soul about and, as the church’s front door was open, I thought it would be okay to sneak inside. What I discovered there took my breath away! It truly is THE most amazingly beautiful place – every interior surface a credit to superb craftsmanship. I was standing there taking in the total silence and calmness of the place and trying to etch every detail into my memory, when the front door banged suddenly and then the back door rattled. Next minute, William Pepere came in. I’m not sure which of us was more surprised.
Turns out William is the Kaikarakia, or Lay Reader for the church and he had arrived early, to prepare the church for the morning’s 9am service. We stood and chatted, he pointing out the memorial boards on one side of the church, dedicated – as in fact the whole church is – to the Ngati Porou soliders, who died in World War I. He talked about the tukutuku paneling, the ornate carving, the incredible stained glass windows – and I just stood there in awe. He told me about 1,000 people live in Tikitiki and that he is very pleased to have around twenty at his services each Sunday. I wanted to stay on be part of the service but it would have greatly encroached on my travel schedule; so instead I asked Mr Pepere if he would let me take his photograph. He agreed, switching on all the lights, so I could get better shots of the interior detailing. I left him then, as he was vacuuming the floors. He waved as I made my way out, reluctant to leave.

All Photos May 2009 Ajr
It is an understatement to say that St Mary’s at Tikitiki is one of the finest churches in New Zealand. It was built in 1924 by local Ngati Porou people and the interior was a collaboration between Ngati Porou and Te Arawa master carvers, orchestrated by Sir Apirana Ngata. For anyone with an interest in traditional Maori crafts it must be the penultimate experience! I would visit it again in a flash to once again have that incredible mixed feeling of awe and contentment that I felt there.

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