Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Turangawaewae - A Place to Stand

Turangawaewae from across the Waikato River. April 2009 Ajr
I grew up in rural Waikato and whenever we drove through Ngaruawahia (near Hamilton), on our way north to Auckland, I was captivated by glimpses of Turangawaewae Marae on the banks of the Waikato River. Those were the days when Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu was leader of the Maori King Movement (Te Kingitanga) and for the childhood me, all that was riddled in romance and intrigue. I imagined her, sitting on a throne inside Turangawaewae, being friendly and benevolent. Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu died on August 15, 2006 and was succeeded by her eldest son, Tuheitia Paki. I drove through Ngaruawahia on my recent North Island travels and, for the first time in my life, I made a detour off the main highway to find the gates to Turangawaewae. There was never going to be any chance of going inside of course but that didn’t matter because the gates to the marae complex are stunningly beautiful and it was enough for me to stand in awe of that incredible craftsmanship.
Ngaruawahia April 2009. Ajr
Turangawaewae, which means a place to stand was established in the 1920s and 1930s under the leadership of Princess Te Puea Herangi, a granddaughter of King Tawhiao, the second Maori king. She gave new life to the Kingitanga Movement, helping it become a central force of the Tainui people of the Waikato region.

Ceremonial Gates, Turangawaewae. April 2009. Ajr
Today the marae complex sits on several acres and is an international showcase of Maoridom for visiting international dignitaries. Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British royal family have visited, as have the Tongan, Cook Islands and Samoan royal families, plus Nelson Mandela and many others. Like the fantastic gates and fences that surround the complex, the interior buildings are exquisite examples of traditional Maori craftsmanship. I wasn’t able to see much of course, but by craning my neck I did get glimpses – the most memorable glimpse being Turongo House, which I have since seen photographs of. I’ll write about that another time – it will be worth the wait I promise. In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy the beauty of these gates as much as I did. There are plenty more of those to come to.

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