Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
When most people think of a Maori waka (canoe), they think of a waka taua - a war canoe - one of those magnificent traditional craft carved out of a totara or a kauri log, and paddled by a muscly crew of dozens. This is the sort of thing I'm talking about - above - this being the supreme waka taua, the biggest of them all, Ngatokimatawhaorua, which was carved in 1935 for the 1940 centennial celebrations at Waitangi. It requires 120 paddlers and now resides at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in Paihia, Northland.
It is easy to get confused of course, especially when you bring waka ama and waka unua into the mix. A waka ama is an outrigger canoe, as illustrated above and below.Waka ama come in a range of sizes from one-man, two-man to the larger versions as shown below.
Unlike a waka taua, which is tapu and ritualised and does not permit female paddlers, a waka ama is a popular racing craft that permits both male and female crew.
A waka unua is another kettle of fish altogether. These are the large, double-hulled voyaging waka that ancient Polynesian cultures, including Maori, used to navigate the oceans. These are the waka that brought Maori to New Zealand shores. These are the waka that few people have seen in action. These are the waka that are the focus of a revival of interest in early Polynesian voyaging and celestial navigation. Among New Zealand Maori, the 'godfathers' of that revival are Hekenukumai Busby (Ngapuhi),Matahi Brightwell (ngati Porou) and Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr (Tainui).
I recently attended a Waka Wananga at Ngati Kuri'sTakahanga Marae in Kaikoura. It was organised by a group of enterprising young Ngai Tahu waka ama enthusiasts, who are passionate about and committed to the revival of Ngai Tahu voyaging traditions. There to impart his rich knowledge of waka unua and voyaging traditions, was Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr (above & below), a man with nearly 30 years of experience on all types of waka. Among his many achievements in the field, is the fact that he has paddled as crew (since he was 17) and now as captain of Taheretikitiki, the royal waka taua of Turangawaewae, for both the late Maori Queen and now the Maori King.
Under Hoturoa's tuition, the 20 young Ngai Tahu crew members received a crash course in the finer details of sailing waka unua, in the lead up to their week-long voyage around Hauraki Gulf, out from Auckland, on the full-sized waka unua, Aotearoa 1 - a journey that started on April 25. Hoturoa and his whanau had driven down from Hamilton with his smaller training waka unua, Pumaiterangi, which out out to sea at Jimy Amers Beach, in Kaikoura. It was an historic moment and probably the first time a waka unua had sailed in Ngai Tahu waters for hundreds of years. Everyone who sailed on her came ashore 'buzzing' with excitement. Organiser of the wananga, Eruera Tarena (Ngai Tahu) summed it up: "This is it. This is the beginning of something big for all of us. We've been passionate about waka ama and the possibility of bringing Ngai Tahu's maritime traditions back to life for the last decade. Now we're on our way. This is one step closer and it's a pretty special moment," he says, with waves washing around his legs. www.ngaitahu.iwi.nz www.tekaraka.co.nz
Monday, April 26, 2010
Paua is the Maori name given to three species of large edible sea snails belonging to the Haliotidae family - known as abalone in the Northern Hemisphere. In New Zealand, the best known of the paua species is Haliotis iris and while it has a beautiful irridescent blue-green shell, in my opinion, the slimy, black 'animal' within would have to be one of the least appetising-looking potential meals I've ever come across.
But looks can be deceiving. Given a thorough bashing to tenderise the flesh and then sliced thinly and barbecued, paua flesh is indeed a delicacy. To Maori, they are a taonga (treasure) and they are sought after both as a food and for their colourful shells, which are often incorporated into carvings (usually to represent eyes) and jewellery. Another favourite way to eat paua is to mince them and make them into fritters. These juicy specimens were caught at Kaikoura and were served at the final meal of the waka wananga I attended recently at Kaikoura's Takahanga Marae.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Takahanga Marae at Kaikoura in the South Island, sits on a high hill overlooking the village of Kaikoura and the ocean beyond. It's a beautiful spot and one that comes with a rich, layered history. The main wharenui (meeting house) [above]opened in 1992 but the marae occupies a site that has been home to Maori for over 800 years. In recent history - back in 1828 - there was a battle on the marae site, the buildings were burnt down and the whanau (occupying families) moved north to Mangamaunu. When the local Ngati Kuri (a Ngai Tahu hapu) decided to build a new wharenui on the site in the 1990s, they carried out an archaelogical dig and found the 800-year-old foundations of the old wharenui, over which they laid the new structure.
I spent this last weekend at the marae, covering a waka wananga (canoe workshop) for Ngai Tahu's TE KARAKA magazine and I was once again struck by the beauty and atmosphere of the place - all this enhanced of course by an astonishing collection of contemporary Maori carvings and artworks by leading New Zealand artists - Neil Dawson, Bill Hammond and Chris Booth to name just a few.
Some of my favourite works are the striking pouwhenua - above (Neil Dawson's "Feather" just visible to right) - that stand sentry in several parts of the large hilltop property. They have an aura about them, a strength and a magic that is almost tangible when you stand beneath them. It goes without saying of course, that if the grounds are so beautifully embellished, the interior of the new wharenui must be likewise - and indeed it is. Colourful contemporary carvings that depict the hapu's dramatic history and their whakapapa (genealogy) twirl and swirl their way up the walls and across the ceiling. We had our evening talks in the wharenui - everyone happily sprawled out on their sleeping mattresses listening to the speakers and looking up into the colourful intertwining of history elements and family histories. Hypnotic almost.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
If you're a visitor to Rotorua, there's every chance you'll drive out to Lake Tarawera and The Buried Village, one of the city's leading tourist attractions. You don't actually see a lot and you have to walk quite a distance through a pretty park to see buried ruins (not that that is too much of a hardship), so I was delighted to pick up this old book recently - "The Buried Village of Te Wairoa," published by D.W.Smith, Rotorua. It doesn't have a publication date but judging by the photographs, it's relatively early, so I gathered it up to add to my collection of old books on New Zealand Maori.
Before the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886, the Te Wairoa valley was home to the Arawa hapu (sub-tribe), Tuhourangi. Along with a carved whare, (meeting house) called Hinemihi, (that's it in the second image from the top), there were churches, hotels and houses for both Maori and Pakeha. But when Tarawera blew her top on the night of June 10, 1886, rocks, firefalls and mud explorded into the air and rained down over an area of nearly 6,000 square miles. Around 143 people perished and the famous Pink and White Terraces were never seen again. The image directly above shows the whare (house) of Tohutu, the 100-year-old Tohunga (priest,witchdoctor), which is still at the Buried Village today. Tohutu was buried in the whare but was found alive four days later.
Caption as shown: "The carvings of this unique storehouse, or Pataka, are executed in sandstone, a material very rarely used for this purpose."
Caption as shown: "Restored and erected in the grounds of beautiful Clandon Park in England, this same whare was bought from the Te Wairoa Maoris by an early Governor, the Earl of Onslow, who took it back (to England), when his term was completed. The whole property is now in the hands of the National Historic Trust in Britain." www.buriedvillage.co.nz
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
There are few New Zealand household items that have not, at some stage, been subject to the addition of Maori symbols and designs in the name of tourism souvenirs. This was especially the case during the 1950s-70s, when a whole host of what now seem tacky, souvenirs came on the market.
In a moment of madness - because I already collect far too many things - I have started collecting old kitsch Maori souvenirs.
It's only a baby collection at this point but already I have several Air New Zealand tiki (probably given away to passengers on their flights in the sixties), a clothes brush, bottle opener, salt & pepper shakers (above), a carved candle, a small carving, an old tie pin, leather pouches, a leather bookmark (leather seems to have been big in this period), a small mug and a little dish. Despite the genuine ugliness of many of these items, they are, more and more, endearing themselves to me. I suspect it is all to do with nostalgia for an earlier (and probably simpler) time - and like many collectors, I begin to lose perspective after a while. It matters not about the looks. Some of the finer (and much more expensive) souvenir items from the 1950s are now very collectible and hard to find - although I do know that Canterbury Museum, here in Christchurch has built up a very handsome collection of hand-carved domesticware from this period. Me? I'm happy just pottering around old secondhand and antique shops seeing what comes my way.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I took a walk in Christchurch Botanic Gardens yesterday. I had heard that there was 'an exhibition' of Maori trapping and snaring techniques, organised by the gardes and staged in conjunction with the current (very beautiful) Ngai Tahu exhibition Te Hokinga Mai, which is showing at Canterbury Museum.
I was given the small booklet, Te Wao Nui a Tane - The Great Forest of Tane and sent on my way to explore the gardens.
I was given the small booklet, Te Wao Nui a Tane - The Great Forest of Tane and sent on my way to explore the gardens.
It took me all of three seconds to realise that the trail had been designed for primary school children and that the activities outlined in the booklet, were all about 'conjuring up' an imagined search for traditional foods. Nonetheless, I wandered about, followed the signs, watched groups of kids looking for eels in the water and generally had a lazy time soaking up the sun. I of course, had been hoping to photograph traps and snares. There were none; but the booklet is a nice little exercise in traditions for children, who may not have learned to identify certain native trees, plants, birds and wildlife. And with it's maps marked with an X, its traditional tracking signs, quizzes and learning tasks, the whole exercise seemed worthwhile to me. www.ngaitahu.iwi.nz
Friday, April 9, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
After you've spent a couple of days driving around the North Island's East Cape, stopping at the dozens and dozens of marae you pass along the way, you begin to feel like you're in another world - and in a way you are....a Maori world for sure. East Cape's population has always been predominantly Maori and it it is still perhaps, New Zealand's richest area for seeing Maori culture within a 'real' (as opposed to tourism) context.
So after throwing yourself wholeheartedly into that mix for a couple of days, entering the region's largest town, Gisborne, is like driving into a contemporary oasis....at one level at least. For there's no doubt that Gisborne is the main centre in this part of the world and the population is still predominantly Maori. Here though, you see Maori design with a more contemporary influence - the graffiti, the murals, the contemporary carvings. I had hardly entered the town boundary when I slammed on my brakes outside Kaiti Primary School to photograph a whole line of colourful murals that ran the length of a walkway beside the school. I didn't linger too long because I was also opposite the Kaiti Community Police Centre and a uniformed member of staff seemed to be keeping an eye on my activities from the window - not that I was doing anything wrong of course, but some people do seem to get a bit fidgety when they see you brandishing a camera. In a way though, murals like these sum up my lasting impressions of Gisborne - sure it's remote and sure it's not exactly 'fashionable and trendy' but its colourful and completely unique; and its inhabitants seem to be almost encouraged to embellish the town with interesting artistic expressions. I like that about a place.