The world’s largest celebration of Māori traditional performing arts is in the capital.
Held every two years, Te Matatini is a whānau-friendly, alcohol-free and smoke-free event and I’m one of the thousands to watch kapa haka’s finest 46 teams (out of 163 contenders this time) competing for the ultimate prize: as well as pride, the title of te toa whakaihuwaka.
I just heard a kaumatua say, on RNZ National, that matatini is for all, ‘from two to toothless’ 🙂
Here is a glimpse of the prizes they want to win;
And some action from the powhiri at Waitangi Park on Wednesday … more to follow on Instagram and other social media tomorrow – from inside the Westpac Stadium here in Wellington.
The day started for me at 4 o’clock in the morning when I went down to the Wellington waterfront to watch a hangi being prepared on the edge of Whairepo (stingray Lagoon, in front of the Wharewaka.
However, for the men cooking the hangi it had started at 2 a.m. I hadn’t been there very long when to the dismay of all , the automatic sprinkler system to water the lawns began pumping out litres of water – not good when you have a fire going.
The fire of course is essential for cooking the food and it became scramble to protect the flames which were heating, not volcanic stones as my husband used, but pieces of iron which are also great heat conductors.
Of course a great hangi master saved the fire and the food emerged after 3 hours – a great 10am breakfast for me.
Here are my photos which tell the story from my arrival until I had the food at about 10 a.m.
Some background about this building
Wharewaka o Poneke opened on Waitangi Day 2011 – and I was there – and during the dawn opening, Wellington’s Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, said
“It’s a building you couldn’t see anywhere else in the world. Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika have delivered Wellington a wonderful asset that reminds us all of their place in the city – their history on the waterfront and their future as well.”
Here are some photos I took at the opening – just a few months after I moved to Wellington, NZ
Sir Ngatata Love, chairman of the Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust, said he was excited to see the Wharewaka open. “This has been planned since the 1990s and I’m delighted we’re now able to bring waka culture to Wellington’s waterfront.”
The outside of the building is based on a korowai (cloak), which symbolises mana and prestige, and mirrors the traditional sails of the waka fleet.
Finally, those of you who follow me on social know the wharewaka and lagoon is where my U3A group meets for our Monday morning walks.
These tours leave daily from Te Raukura where the waka are housed within Te Wharewaka o Poneke: a place I know quite well as I not only attended the dawn opening of this building (2011) but also where my weekly social walking group meets, at Karaka (cafe), for breakfast or coffee before we head off on a city walk.
Tuparahuia, our guide for the morning walk introduced himself while standing beside the four waka – including the largest, a single hull carved waka taua, Te Rerenga Kotare, which is used for ceremonial events and which, in the past, would have been a war canoe. Another way to experience the rich culture and history of Te Whanganui-a-Tara and the Te Atiawa people is to join a waka tour of the harbour on one of these traditional boats. (Bookings essential)
Alongside the water of Te Whanganui a Tara (Wellington Harbour) we hear the story of Maui and his brothers fishing up the North Island, otherwise known as Te Ika A Maui -the fish of Maui. Turning back towards the building we stand under the fabulous statue -made in the late 1930s by Christchurch sculptor William Trethewy – which depicts the legendary Polynesian explorer Kupe, his wife, and tohunga. Originally built in plaster, and for decades sitting in the Wellington railway station, in 1999 it was cast in bronze and placed on the waterfront to celebrate the millennium and as a tribute to all who have come to these shores. Under the gaze of these majestic, heroic looking, figures our walking tour continues and we hear the stories of Kupe and his discovery of Aotearoa New Zealand.
In front of the meeting house, on the atea (usually considered a sacred area of ground) is a stylised compass of the stars and constellations used by those early Pacific navigators: it was interesting to hear how those early waka had the 360° horizon marked around the canoe railings for easy navigation when they added their knowledge about the time of the year – something I’d not heard before.
Te Aro Pa (pa = community or village) was once one of the largest Māori communities in Wellington until the 1880s. It is often acknowledged that those early settlers would never have survived without the support of local Māori.
I recommend you take the tour yourself and hear all these stories, myths, and legends. We also examined the uncovered remains of two whare (buildings) which were uncovered during the demolition, then construction of an apartment block, in 2005. This tour, and others Te Atiawa provide, are a great way to understand the city’s history as you discover Wellington’s hidden Māori treasures.
Note: in Māori, as in many other languages, you do not add an ‘s’ to a word to describe more than on as there is no letter s in the language. Just as we say one sheep or 1000 sheep the same is for waka, kiwi, and Māori (etc) when being used as New Zealand English. In te reo Māori it would be te waka (the waka, ie one) or nga waka to show more that one. For more information about the language please see other blogs I’ve written, including this one I wrote for NileGuide Maori is one of three official languages in New Zealand – check it out here
Some photos for you . . .
Historical crane/boat welcomes its new neighbor
Food is part of all Maori events – breakfast is served
People gather in the dawn
Wonderful view of the great roof line
the bronze statue is impressive
Our guide talks about the effect of change in water levels
Last week I joined a group to walk Te Ara o nga Tupuna – a Māori heritage trail through downtown Wellington, following the old 1840s shoreline.
Our section of the walk took about two hours and started at Pipitea Marae. If you cannot join such a tour, the visitor iSite Centre beside the public library has a brochure that you too can follow. (‘The path of our ancestors’ includes a driving trail around Miramar Peninsula.)
Appropriately the pou at the top of Pipitea Marae, is of Maui – the well-known trickster of Polynesian mythology. It is appropriate as Maui is credited with fishing up the North Island, and the mouth of this fish is Wellington Harbour. The first Polynesian navigators of this area were Kupe and Ngahue who camped on the southern area of the harbour. (Seatoun)
Pipitea Marae was built in the early 1980s on the site of an old village overlooking the harbour and close to fresh water supplies and pipi beds. Pipi are a popular shellfish among many Kiwi. The 1840 shoreline has changed considerably, mostly due to reclamation, which has destroyed many traditional food sources. Other changes, near Waitangi Park have been due to earthquakes which lifted the land.
Plaques set in the footpath show where the water used to reach. Walking along Lambton Quay, the main shopping area in Wellington, we hear stories about the names of many streams which were used particularly for women during pregnancy and childbirth.
One of the motivators for my 2012 road trip around Northland was to revisit the birthplace of New Zealand – the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – and in particular be there for our annual public holiday (Waitangi Day, 6th Feb.) that commemorates the 1840 event.
I’m thrilled to be going back again in about 6 weeks, not for a road trip, but for a few days staying in the hotel beside the Treaty Grounds and which I’ll visit again.
In the meantime, read some of my two weeks road trip blogs (and photos) written while travelling around New Zealands beautiful Northland – here’s one to start you off 🙂
Kāpiti Island’s 1965 hectares has been a rugged lifeboat for New Zealand’s endangered birds for over 100 years.
The local tangata whenua (Māori for ‘people of the land’) kept 13 hectares around Waiorua Bay and I spent a night at the lodge that is on the top, north-eastern, of the island.
The owner-operators of Kapiti Nature Tours are the whanau (family) – John and Susan Barrett, and John’s sister Amo Clark – who live there. John and Amo’s iwi (tribe) and whanau (family) have lived on Kapiti Island since the 1820s.
Kapiti Nature Lodge is the only accommodation on Kapiti Island and was inspired by the homestead of John and Amo’s grandmother who opened her farm homestead to visitors. It was a family member, and nature guide, Maanaki, who met us when we landed at Rangatira, about 2 kilometres south of our final destination, Waiorua Bay, for the nocturnal kiwi walk and our bed for the night.
One of the first birds he introduces to us was the beautiful Tieke (north island saddleback). Its glossy black, has a tan saddle and long red wattles at the base of its black bill. Its birds such as this, he tells us, that they work closely with the Department on Conservation to nurture and protect.
They say good things come to those who wait: my trip to Kāpiti Island with Kāpiti Island Nature Tours proved the adage. This blog sets the scene for a series of posts (and photos) about my time as a guest of my Māori hosts.
Shaped by ocean currents, wind and quakes or, as legend says, sliced from the mainland with blows from Kupe’s paddle, this island has become a lifeboat for New Zealand’s flora and fauna.
Interestingly such of the vegetation there has more in common with the South Island than the North suggesting a land bridge to the south and not the close-by Kāpiti Coast.
After two aborted trips to the island, because of bad weather stopping the boat, in late 2014 I finally got to visit one of NZ’s longest restoration stories. In 1897 the island became a nature reserve after being acquired, or taken, by governmental legislation, for use as a bird sanctuary
New Zealand history says “At the end of the 1880s scientists were concerned about the loss of native plants and animals and the impact of introduced predators and pests. Taking their lead from Potts, who in 1878 suggested the creation of ‘national domains’ as refuges for native birds, scientific societies helped create offshore islands as flora and fauna reserves. These included Resolution Island (1891), Secretary Island (1893), Little Barrier Island (1895) and Kapiti Island (1897). The societies were led by notable figures such as botanist Leonard Cockayne and politician Harry Ell”.
Large scale colonisation didn’t begin until Ngāti Toa, under Te Rauparaha who was at the height of his powers, captured the island from Ngāti Apa and Muaupoko and began farming to supply the whaling and coastal trading ships
The first whaling station had started in 1829 and by early 1830 there were seven on the island with some 4000 Māori and 600 whalers living on the island.
Now one of New Zealand’s most valuable nature reserves, these 1965 hectares, our 2nd largest offshore natures reserve, is free from introduced animals (and predators). As a sanctuary for wildlife, its vegetation is of equal importance and restoring and preserving vegetation that was once common in coastal and lowland parts of central NZ.
Bookmark this blog to read more about my hiking there and to see more photos of the wonderful bird life – the abundant birdsong was clear as soon as we stepped off the water taxi.
In the Māori languageMatariki is both the name of the Pleiadesstar cluster and also of the season of its first rising in late May or early June—taken as the beginning of the new year. Similar words occur in most Polynesian languages, deriving from Proto-Polynesian *mataliki, meaning minute, small, and the use of the term for the Pleiades constellation is also ancient and has been reconstructed to Eastern Oceanic ( taken from Wikipedia)