Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Place of Whales

I didn’t step onto the beach at Whangaparaoa on East Cape, which I regret now. It’s where the famous canoes the Tainui and the Arawa landed after their journey from Hawaiiki around 1350AD. It would have been nice to have stepped onto a place of such historical importance. I did however, stop outside Whangaparaoa’s Kauaetangohia Marae, which sits just to one side of State Highway 35 – that marvellous road that takes you right around this spectacular Cape from Opotiki to Gisborne.
Whangaparaoa, near Cape Runaway, was named by the first Maori warriors who landed there. When the Arawa and the Tainui canoes landed, they found a whale on the beach and both sought to claim it as their own, so they could used the valuable flesh and whalebone. Whanga means bay, paraoa is Maori for sperm whale. Later, after the arrival of Europeans, the area became a busy whaling centre.

It was blowing a gale when I stopped in the tiny settlement at 3.30pm on May 8th. There was no one about, although smoke was curling from the chimney of a little house across the highway from the marae and an old school bus was parked beside the health centre near the gates of the marae. A small inter-denominational church made a solitary statement on the adjacent hilltop. Whangaparaoa forms the boundary of the Opotiki District and also that of the local tribe, Te Whanau-a-Apanui. Onwards to the north and east, the land becomes home to Ngati Porou.

Across the highway from the church, sits the little Maori school, Te Kura Mana Maori o Whangaparaoa, which according to Ministry of Education statistics, had a roll of just 29 in 2008. It’s a pretty place, with traditional Maori designs painted along the railings of the entrance pathway. I was especially intrigued by the little shelter in front of the school, which appeared (from a distance) to house a large sculpture of an octopus. The octopus, or te wheke does have a number of mythical associations for Maori, chief among them, the legend of Kupe and his battle with Te Wheke-a-Muturangi, which is far too long for me to re-tell here. But if you have an interest in the legend, it is detailed on Google. The concept of Te Wheke, the octopus is also sometimes used to define family health. The head of the octopus represents te whānau, the eyes of the octopus as waiora (total wellbeing for the individual and family) and each of the eight tentacles representing a specific dimension of health. The dimensions are interwoven and this represents the close relationship of the tentacles. Perhaps that’s why it’s outside the school – but I can’t be sure. Next time I'll pray the wind isn't blowing so hard and I'll take a closer look.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On a Hill

Whitianga Bay, 51.2km north east of Opotiki on the North Island’s East Cape, is one of the prettiest beaches you’ll find. I arrived there, on my recent North Island travels, on May 8th. It was a sunny afternoon at 1pm and when I saw the sign pointing to Whitianga Marae, I turned right and drove up a short, steep, gravel road and found myself directly in front of the marae. It sits on a grassy knoll overlooking the beautiful expanse of ocean and the pretty horseshoe bay, with a thicket of pine forest rearing up behind the buildings. I felt at ease there. I felt a strong sense of peace and calm for reasons I couldn’t explain and I stayed for some time, sitting out the front of the marae, thinking about all the people who might have walked under its divine, ornately carved waharoa (gateway).

I loved its lively painted fence. I admired the lush pa harakeke (flax grown for weaving) that grew to one side of the car park. I wondered about the war memorial commemorating the lives of all those lost in both world wars, the Korean war, the Malaysian and Indonesian conflicts and the Vietnam war; and I thought about the statue commemorating the life and bravery of Te Moananui-A-Kiwa Ngarimu (1918-1943), who at 24 was a second lieutenant in the 28th Maori Battalion in Tunisia in World War II. Of Ngati Porou and Te Whanau-a-Apanui descent, Ngarimu grew up in Rotorua. He was awarded the VC posthumously.

One of the most striking things about the Whitianga Marae is the beautifully-carved waharoa and as the afternoon shifted, I took great delight in photographing the marvellous shadows it cast across the marae lawn. They seemed to have a life of their own and as they stalked across the grass, it was almost as if the carving was coming to life. All up it was a beautiful little stopover that I still think about frequently.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Leaping into the Spotlight

One of the big attractions at this year’s Body Festival in Christchurch is bound to be the award-winning show, Tama Ma, performed by two of New Zealand’s most acclaimed contemporary dancers, Taane Mete and Taiaroa Royal. The pair premiered Tama Ma at the Tempo Dance Festival in Auckland in 2008, where it received rave reviews, standing ovations and sell-out performances.
Still from the short film Pito Act 1
This evocative performance takes the form of a five act autobiographical dance journey, which tells the story of two men who travel from boyhood to manhood. It’s a real life tale of life, love, sorrow and joy. The five-part act moves from a short dance film projected on stage to a drag queen’s journey to femininity and the return back to masculinity; a young boy’s connection to his whanau (family) and iwi (tribe); and a mature man’s ideas of identity. “We do not often see choreography that is so deeply drawn from a core of Maori culture and personal experience,” says Jennifer Shennan in the Dominion Post.
Zoomslide Films director, Mark Summerville and producer, Heather Lee collaborated on Tama Ma, producing the short film, Pito that plays in Act 1 of the show. Distinguished choreographer, Douglas Wright worked on Act 2; and extraordinary talents of Michael Parmenter have shaped Act 4, Hand to Hand. Act 3, Rangatahi, explores remembered connections to whanau and iwi; and Act 5, Whanaungatanga, explores whanau and spirituality as Mete and Royal pay homage to their late fathers. It is an especially moving piece that sees both men reflect on the important life lessons learnt from their fathers’ tautoko (support) and korero (talk). The show runs in Christchurch at James Hay Theatre on October 6.
Images Courtesy of Elephant Publicity and The Body Festival

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Above the Door

I took this close up of the ornate lintel carving above the door of the Whare Runanga at Waitangi National Reserve. The lintel carving design is adapted from one found in a Hauraki swamp. The carving above the window (only just visible) is a replica of a lintel carving from the Napier district; and the skirting board design reproduces a design formerly carved on bargeboards of important pataka (storehouses). This mixed nature of the derivation of carvings on the Whare Runanga is very much in keeping with the fact that it was built to represent not one tribe, but all the tribes of New Zealand. This concept from proposed by Sir Apirana Ngata, then (in 1934) the Minister of Maori Affairs, as the Maori people's contribution to celebrate the 1940 centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, which was signed at Waitangi in 1840.

Traditional Designs - 10

Hats For Sale
Riccarton Rotary Market

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dance Festival

Images supplied by the Body Festival 2009.
If you’ve ever wanted to know more about kapa haka and the Maori poi dance, the 2009 Body Festival offers the perfect chance to get up close and personal. Staged in Christchurch, the festival opened yesterday and runs until October 11. Tucked in between the many outstanding dance performances across all dance genres, is a comprehensive series of workshops designed to meet any dance preference. You can learn all about kapa haka from one of Christchurch’s most dynamic and versatile performing groups, Te Ahikaaroa on Saturday October 3; or you can try your hand at twirling the poi led by Maarie Hutana of Positive Touch on October 10.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Eastland Street Art

Gisborne, on the North Island's east coast is one of the more remote of New Zealand's provinvial towns and cities. It is also home to a large Maori population and I love the fact that you can walk the streets here and constantly come face-to-face with colourful murals, graffiti and street art, all with a strong Maori design theme. My time there most recently (in May) was unfortunately short, but I raced about the streets like a mad thing, photographing left, right and centre. Luckily the weather held and I was able to get a record of many of the street works that may well be gone a few months from now. I loved this mural, painted down the length of a wall of some of the Tairawhiti Polytechnic buildings.

Maori Place Names - 27

Central Otago
South Island

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Leaf Prints

I photographed these 'leaf castings' in Cathedral Square. There are about ten of them cast into the base of Neil Dawnson's 'Chalice,' each depicting one of the native trees, ferns or plants of the Christchurch area.

Te Ati Awa Carving

Carving detail at Waikawa Marae, Picton

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Talking about Tukutuku

When I called in to visit the very beautiful Ngati Kahungunu Marae in the tiny Eastland village of Nuhaka back in May, I was particularly drawn to the stunning tukutuku panels that lined the walls of the main wharenui (meeting house). They seemed more intricate and more elaborate than most I had seen previously and my lovely host that morning – the marae caretaker, Cairo Otene – let me take photographs of them. Two of those are shown above.
But then I remembered the equally memorable Whare Runanga on Northland’s Waitangi Treaty Grounds. There too, I had been captivated by the tukutuku (above and below). In this case, the panels lining the walls represent all the iwi (tribes) of New Zealand, with their individual patterns record the stories of individual hapu. Tukutuku I should point out, refers to the intricate lattice work panels that are almost always found in Maori meeting houses. They are made by weaving horizontal battens to a backing of vertical poles (toetoe reeds for example) with dyed or bleached harakeke (flax) or kiekie and the yellow-orange pingao fibre, in detailed and distinctive patterns. Often the battens are painted to introduce another element to the overall design. The making of tukutuku panels has traditionally been women’s work
There are many traditional tukutuku designs that represent various objects. A diamond shape for instance can represent the patiki or flounder (fish) and zigzag patterns the kaokao or ribs. A triangle is called niho taniwha, or monster’s teeth – a taniwha is said to be a mythical sea or river monster in Maori lore. In the Waitangi Whare Runanga, the tukutuku panels (like the carved poupou) are arranged in pairs down opposite sides of the house, each pair the work of a different iwi group.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Takahanga Carvings

One of my favourite contemporary carvings
Takahanga Marae, Kaikoura

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Traditional Experience

Rotorua, home to the Te Arawa people offers the greatest number of Maori tourism experiences in one place. One of the most popular is a visit to the Mitai Maori Village, where you get an excellent introduction to Maori culture, traditions and protocols. It's an interactive experience that can include a cultural performance, a hangi (a traditional earth-cooked meal) and a terrific outing on Wai-o-Whiro Stream at night in the waka (war canoe) carved by the Mitai family. I made a fleeting visit during my recent visit to Rotorua and was very taken with the carvings (above) outside their main entrance.

Words for Birds

PiwakawakaKERERUtuiHUIAkakapopukekopitoitoikiwimanukorowhiowhioparerarakirakikoroheapiopioMOArupetarapungaTITIKOTARETOROAKOTUKUtui wekakakataiKEAKAKAtiekeHURUHURU

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Casino Carvings

Whenever I go into Auckland's SKYCITY Casino to update Frommers NZ travel guide, I'm always slightly taken aback by the sight of this huge Maori carving - of which I know absolutely nothing about - standing in the middle of the entry atrium with clusters of advertising boards huddled around its base.
It's an unlikely and incongruous setting for a traditional Maori carving in one sense; but on the other hand, SKYCITY has one of the best New Zealand art collections in the country, featuring the works of both contemporary and traditional Maori and pakeha artists. In that sense it is perfectly placed and certainly it is admired by hundreds of people every day.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Museum Visit

Auckland Museum has one of the best collections of Maori artefacts in the world - and this is one of them, the pataka (storehouse) Te Oha, which was sold to F.D.Fenton in 1885 by Te Mata Tahuri-o-Rangi. It was purchased by Auckland Museum in 1906. Pataka were generally used to store food, although they sometimes housed valuable weapons, cloaks and baskets.

Market Enterprise

Kete For Sale
Decorated with Paua Shells
Riccarton Rotary Market
September 2009 Ajr

Friday, September 18, 2009

Leaving Ruatoria

East Cape - May 2009
Farewell = Haere Ra

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gallery Graphics

I like the street presentation of Maioha, a contemporary Maori art gallery that I came upon by chance in Napier's Ahuriri area. It was closed when I visited unfortunately, so I couldn't get inside to enjoy a proper viewing of the interesting works on display. I particularly like the unconventional use of lime green in these traditional patterns.

Maori Place Names - 26

On the Way to Lake Kaniere
Hokitika, West Coast
South Island

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mussels and Memories

Kutai or Toretore = Mussel
One of the favourite traditional Maori foods.
I wrote about mussels and their traditional harvest at Tutehuarewa Marae at Koukourarata -Port Levy on Canterbury’s Banks Peninsular, about three years ago, for Ngai Tahu's TE KARAKA magazine. The marae, a cluster of buildings on a grassy slope, is perfectly placed overlooking a stony beach and a pretty jetty. Koukourarata is well known for producing some of the fattest, juiciest toretore around – mussels up to six inches long have been harvested from the bay over the years. 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.

Mussel patties courtesy ex-Executive chef of Blanket Bay, Jason Dell.
I recall Matapi Briggs, then 75, telling me how she remembered a Koukourarata childhood that revolved around the sea. “The sea was our life. It meant everything; it was where we played and where we found our food. We knew where all the best kaimoana was and we only had to walk along the beach to pick cockles, paua and mussels off the rocks. We never needed a boat.” She talked about the times they made fires on the beach, slipping fat mussels in their shells into the ashes and eating them there and then. One of their jobs as children was to gather mussels for family meals but they were taught from an early age only to ever take what they needed, unless the family were taking kaimoana as koha for another runanga. “Our mussels have always been sweeter and juicier. I think it’s because there are a lot of freshwater creeks running into the sea here,” she says. “It’s common for them to grow to four or five inches long.” In the old days - “when my parents were young” - mussels were preserved in seaweed by the tahu method. They’d split the seaweed, put the mussels in and fill the pouch with hot bird fat. They also did that with paua,” Matapi says.

Matapi’s younger sister, Tokerau Wereta-Osborn also has vivid memories of a happy Port Levy childhood. She was just 18 months old when she arrived in the bay and now, her great-grandchildren are the sixth generation of her family to enjoy everything the bay has to offer.
The bay has never changed in my opinion. It’s always been a wonderful place to live and the kaimoana has always been plentiful. We used to walk out to the island at low tide to collect mussels, paua, oysters, cockles and conga eel. Our favourite way of eating mussels was simple - they were just opened, scalded in their shells, drained and then eaten with a bit of vinegar and onion. Sometimes our mother would make patties, or she battered the mussels whole but I always preferred them plain with vinegar,” Tokerau says. “I always loved making a fire on the beach and cooking the mussels in the ashes, or on a piece of hot tin and eating them fresh. When we needed to store them we would make a circle of rocks just offshore and keep the live mussels there. It was like our fridge and it saved us going out hunting for them each time we wanted a meal.”

Traditional Designs - 9

On Sale
Riccarton Rotary Market

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Re-Visiting Papawai

When I was travelling through the North Island a few months back, I made a stop at Greytown to visit Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa’s Papawai Marae. I hadn’t visited Papawai since my three sons were small boys (it’s the marae they are affiliated to) and I was keen to seen the changes brought about the major renovations of the late 1980s. It was a brilliant sunny morning in May, tuis were flitting in and out of the totara trees and all was quiet in the little row of houses across the road from the marae. I stood under the beautifully restored waharoa (gateway) and admired again, the totara whakairo (carved figures) that form the pallisade around the marae. Those figures by the way, both male and female, represent famous individuals and unusually, they face inwards to represent peace between Maori and Pakeha, rather than looking outwards to confront enemies in the traditional manner. (I’ll bring you some photos of those another time).
Ngati Kahungunu is the third largest tribal group in New Zealand and Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa is one of their three main sub-groups, with others centred in Wairoa in Eastland and Heretaunga in Hawke’s Bay. Papawai was established in the 1850s when the government set aside land for Maori settlement near Greytown. The marae played an important role in Maori history when it became the focus of the Kotahitanga, or Maori Parliament movement in the late 19th century. Papawai hosted numerous iwi (meetings) to discuss, among other things, the protection of Maori land; and chief of the time, Tamahau Mahupuku, played a key role in hosting meetings to record the history, whakapapa (genealogy) and customs of his people. He died in 1904 – it was he, who planned the pallisading of the marae, which was created and put in place after his death.
The Hikurangi meeting house was also built in Tamahau’s time. It opened in 1888 and was followed by the construction of several other buildings. By the 1940s though, Papawai had fallen on leaner times. A number of buildings had been damaged by winds and earthquakes and many people had moved away from the settlement. It wasn’t until the 1960s that restoration work began on the rotting whakairo figures. The gateway has also been restored and today it forms a stately entrance to the marae complex.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Contemporary Statement

Photo Courtesy Too Luscious
Manuka Honey Pekapeka
A Pendant
By Too Luscious, Rotorua

Casting Shadows

Auckland. April 2009 Ajr
I took this photograph in Auckland Museum as much for the tracery of shadows flickering across the wall as for the beautifully-detailed carving itself. This stunning pare (carved door lintel) has its origins in Ngati Paoa and Ngati Tamatera in the North Island’s Hauraki Plains area. According to the museum material, it was probably carved in the early part of the 19th century with stone tools. It stood at Patetonga Pa.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another Kete Moment

One Small Kete
Hanging on a Wall


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