Tuesday, November 24, 2009
A Southern Hui
If there's one thing the participants in Ngai Tahu's 2009 Hui-a-Tau at Colac Bay will remember, it's the changeable weather and the chaos it created. Located 45 minutes southwest of Invercargill, Colac Bay is a sleepy little bay, popular with surfers and those looking for a remote holiday. On a fine day, it is a glorious spot to be. In bad weather, when the southerly winds lash in from the sea, it's another story altogether. We had both for the Hui-a-Tau, which was held at Takutai o Te Titi Marae, home of Ngai Tahu's Oraka Aparimu runanga.
People began gathering outside the marae at about 5pm on Friday November 20th, waiting for the formal invitation to enter (the powhiri), as Maori protocol demands. An estimated crowd of between 700 and 800 had made the pilgrimage and as you can see in these photographs, we were blessed with a beautfil sunny evening for the occasion. At least half a dozen large marquees had been raised by a hardworking team, who had spent all week at the marae, making the necessary preparations.
By late Friday evening though, the weather had turned and raging winds and rain battered the coastline all night. By the time a bus load of us arrived at the marae at 8am on Saturday morning, eager to catch up with old friends and relatives at the monster marae breakfast, the rain was almost horizontal, one of the largest marquees had been blown down and rapid decisions were being made about transferring the hui elsewhere. Disappointed we drove back to Invercargill, only to receive the message that proceedings would be delayed until lunchtime. As it turned out, the rain stopped (for the most part) and although the freezing winds continued, a reduced hui programme carried on into the afternoon.
The next day - Sunday - the sun came out again and everyone was happy. The important discussions were held; the family connections were made; the market stalls went ahead; and every meal was a masterpiece of organisational planning and mouthwatering goodness. Tables at every meal were piled high with all the best seafood including crayfish, kina, cockles, mussels, oysters, fish and the titi (muttonbird) that Oraka Aparima and the marae are famous for. And by the time mid-afternoon arrived, most of us were reluctant to leave.