Monday, May 10, 2010

Te Kaha - An East Coast Marae

The skies were putting on a show the afternoon I rolled into the little east Coast town of Te Kaha - home to around 350 people, who live in homes gathered around the Te Kaha Marae - sometimes also called Tukaki Marae

The main coast road curves around the small hill that offers the marae a commanding outlook up and down the coast. Across the road, in total contrast, sits the new Te Kaha Hotel, which clings to the cliffs above a wide sweep of East Coast beach.

There wasn't a soul about the day I drove through and, with an eye on the clock and due in Hicks Bay later that afternoon, I only had time for a brief stop. But it was nice to sit there and reflect on how the marae scene might have looked back in 2007, when locals staged a massive powhiri (welcome), for Corporal Willie Apiata to celebrate his being awarded the Victoria Cross. Apiata - like New Zealand filmmaker, Taika Waititi, calls this marae home. I suspect the little community hadn't seen so much action for decades, as then-Prime Minister Helen Clark, Defence Force chiefs and Maori dignitaries arrived to congratulate Willie Apiata in the traditional Maori way. Also in the traditional Maori way, the crowd of over 3,000 visitors was treated to a traditional hangi feast - crayfish, mussels, oysters, titi (mutton bird) and more - prepared by the Te Kaha locals. All of that required tractors to help burrow out hangi pits big enough to cope with the numbers.
Te Kaha Marae sits within the rohe (tribal area) of Te Whanau-a-Apanui.

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