Skip to content

Ngā Taonga ō Tātou Tūpuna /Treasures of our Ancestors – Cultural Days 2022

July 8, 2022

We were delighted when CUE Haven Trust Kai Ārahi (Cultural Advisor), Rewana Walker a descendant of the local hapu Ngāti Rango, of Ngāti Whātua Iwi, was successful in her efforts to get a grant from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to organize and introduce an exclusive cultural experience  for manuhiri or visitors who have had little or no experience in tikanga Maori.               

We planned for three sessions and extended invitations to CUE Haven’s volunteers and supporters and the response was overwhelming and each day was oversubscribed.  Most of those who registered for the events are immigrants to New Zealand and had never had experienced Māori cultural traditions. The Cultural days were initially to be held in 2021 and then rescheduled to the summer of 2021-2022 but were postponed again due to Covid restrictions. They were subsequently held in April, May and June 2022

The team providing the delivery of a uniquely Māori experience are members of the local hapu Ngati  Rango and Kahungunu, led by Kaumatua Haahi Walker, Rewana Walker, Rita Walker, Christine Walker and members of their extended whanau, Alias, Bobby-Rae, Bruce, Che, Jason, Jo, Lyall, Patrick and Teri-Pita.

The delivery team put in a huge amount of effort planning and preparing the sessions.  This included such varied tasks as organizing the hāngi lunch, securing tents, chairs, tables, etc., well in advance of the actual days.  The unique Cultural day experience would include a powhiri, hariru (handshake) and hongi, tribal tikanga and reo learning and work with korari harakeke and koauau.  

The three Cultural days were held on April 30, May 21 and June 11.  The May session was slightly different because most of the people attending that day were members of the New Zealand Polish community and they are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Polish settlement in New Zealand.  As a result, Boguslaw Nowak, the Honorary Polish Consul to New Zealand, requested that the cultural day also celebrate their jubilee event.  The organizing team very graciously altered the program for the day and in lieu of the korari-harakeke session, the manuhiri planted several trees representing friendship and solidarity.

Below are some photos from the Cultural Days and some information on how the days progressed.

The evening before and early morning of each Cultural Day, Thomas and Mahrukh, and volunteers Yazdy and Xerxes helped the delivery team set up. 

The biggest job was preparing all the kai.  All the work was done on site, but the hangi boxes were taken offsite for cooking in the hangi pit.

At the start of each Cultural Day session, manuhiri (guests) were asked to assemble in the nursery prior to the powhiri.

The powhiri is a traditional welcome between tangata whenua and manuhiri.   The process is sacred and a significant part of the welcome invokes the spirit world. To neutralize the sacredness of the spirit world, manuhiri and tangata whenua share kai (food) at the end of the powhiri. The kai acts to remove the tapu from the manuhiri so that they come under the auspices and protection of tangata whenua and the two sides can complete the coming together.     

Each iwi (tribe) and hapu (sub-tribe) has its own tikanga (customs) for the powhiri and Rewana gave a short briefing explaining the tikanga that the Ngāti Rango, who are a hapu of the Ngāti Whātua iwi, follow.  Rewana explained how the powhiri would progress and what protocols manuhiri should follow.

Rewana also gave a demonstration of how to do a hongi (the touching of the foreheads and noses).

The powhiri begins with a karanga (traditional chant of welcome) which is always done by women.  Rita, waiting with the tangata whenua, welcomed the manuhiri with the karanga.  Rewana then responded to the karanga on behalf of the manuhiri and led the manuhiri with the women leading the men, to the whare (house) where the tangata whenua were waiting to receive them.

The tangata whenua had assembled in the cottage and the manuhiri and tangata whenua greeted each other with a hariru (hand shake) and a hongi.

Once all of the manuhiri were seated, Kaumatua Haahi, gave a blessing for the day.

Bruce and Thomas were given the honour to give the mihi (formal welcome speech) to the manuhiri. 

Each mihi was acknowledged followed by a customary waiata (song) of support.

Manuhiri were invited to respond with a kai korero (speech) which Kaumatua Haahi graciously said they could give in English or any language they felt comfortable in, and this was followed by a waiata from the manuhiri.  

As mentioned above, the cultural day in May included a celebration of 150 years of Polish settlement in New Zealand and a fund raiser to show support for Ukraine.  The Polish Ambassador to New Zealand, Grzegorz Kowal, came up from Wellington for the event and also joining us for the day were the Consuls of Poland, Finland, Montenegro, Panama, Romania, Samoa, Slovakia and Sweden, and the President of the Ukrainian Association in NZ. 

So, on the three Cultural days we had kai korero and waiata in English, Mandarin, Maori, Polish, Swedish and Ukrainian – A wonderful coming together of different cultures!!

In order to complete the traditional tikanga welcoming process it was necessary for everyone to share a meal together and we all broke for morning tea. Sharing a meal takes away the tapu (spiritual restriction) and enables strangers to become friends.

After morning tea, everyone assembled again and all the members of the tangata whenua team were introduced and the manuhiri were asked to individually introduce themselves.

Kaumatua Haahi then gave a talk about various aspects of Māori culture and tikanga and the reasons behind the various protocols of a powhiri followed by Ngāti Rango.  Manuhiri were invited to ask Kaumatua Haahi questions on any aspects of Māori culture and many interesting questions were asked.

Once the Q&A session ended, the delivery team had the manuhiri participate in kori kori tinana (body movement exercises) the aim of which was to promote social interaction, enhance taha hinengaro (mental and emotional wellbeing), and whakatau wairua (settle the spirit) to open the mind and spirit for the activities to follow.

The exercises were a great opportunity for the group to mix and get to know one another.

Manuhiri then broke into two smaller groups, one went to the nursery for the korari-harakeke (flax work) session with Rita.

Rita had earlier set up some information in the nursery and had previously cut some korari for the participants to work with.  She also had a nice display of finished items.

Rita started her sessions by explaining the significance of the korari to Māori and the rituals around cutting and handling it.

She then demonstrated some of the basic korari-harakeke weaving techniques and gave each participant a korari leaf and taught them how to make a putiputi (flower).

Getting the folding right was a challenge but Rita, Alias and Rewana were on hand to assist everyone make their putiputi.

The participants were proud of their successful accomplishments!

While half the group were in the nursery, the other group walked down the track to Wahi Mātauranga.

In August 2016 we had a large slip on the property after torrential rain and a hill slope bordering CUE Haven and neighbouring farm washed away. Once we cleared the tons of mud collected by the wetland, we decided to make that into a learning space amongst the growing native forest.  Hence the name – Wahi Mātauranga – the space for Knowledge/Wisdom.

At Wahi Mātauranga, Bruce had set up a workshop to teach participants about Taonga pūoro (traditional Māori musical instruments) and some basic Te Reō (Māori language) pronunciation and words.

Bruce had a large collection of traditional musical instruments and demonstrated them all. It was absolutely amazing to experience the melodic sounds of these traditional instruments in the CUE Haven ngahere (forest).

In addition to being musically gifted, Bruce is an experienced educator for Te Reō Māori and also taught all the groups basic Māori words and pronunciations of popular place names and common terms.

Due to rain and strong winds on the Cultural day in June, the music and Te Reō sessions were held by the cottage.  And at times the delivery team had a challenging time holding down the pop-up canopy shades and keep them from flying off.

But despite the weather Bruce’s music and the lively Te Reō session kept the participants enthralled.

All manuhiri had an opportunity to experience both the sessions and except that the participants at the Cultural day in May, did not have a korari-harakeke session. Instead, they participated in a special celebration tree planting session at Wahi Mātauranga.

At the request of the Polish community, four pukatea (Laurelia novae-zelandiae) tree were planted to celebrate friendship and solidarity.

Kaumatua Haahi blessed the trees and gave a short mihi about the importance of community and unity.

Thomas then told the group about the pukatea tree and explained the planting process.

A tree commemorating the 150th anniversary of Polish settlement in New Zealand was planted by Kaumatua Haahi and elders of the Polish and NZ Pakeha community.

The Polish ambassador and his daughter planted a tree to commemorate their visit for the special event.

A tree to show solidarity for Ukraine was planted by the Presidents of the Ukraine Association of NZ and the Polish Association of NZ.

The Consuls from Finland, Montenegro, Panama, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Sweden also planted a tree to commemorate Europe Day and European Unity.

On completion of the activities manuhiri were invited to a traditional hāngi lunch. The hāngi was cooked offsite at Jason’s place down the road from CUE Haven and Jason and his team delivered the food hot off the coals in time for lunch. The hāngi was served with a variety of delicious salads and dessert prepared on site by Christina and her team.

In addition to the delicious meal, the delivery team serenaded the manuhiri with melodious waiata while they ate.

Kaumatua Haahi was sought after throughout the day to share more conversations.

After lunch, manuhiri also had opportunity to purchase traditional Māori handicrafts and CUE Haven honey. 

On the Cultural Day in May, several Polish ladies had prepared traditional Polish pierogi (dumplings) and pastries and these were also sold along with CUE Haven honey. The proceeds from the sale of all the items were donated to support the relief work in Ukraine.

Additionally, Kaumatua Haahi also presented all the koha collected on the day to the President of the Ukrainian Association to help towards relief for the Ukrainian refugees.

After lunch, everyone continued to socialise and manuhiri had further opportunities to chat with tangata whenua. The objective was not just to inform and educate but to also give everyone a chance to interact informally and get to know each other and cultivate new friendships.

Just as each day began with a whakamoemiti (prayer), the day ended with a whakamoemiti to farewell the guests safely to their homes.

It’s not possible to fully describe the amazing manaakitanga (hospitality) that everyone experienced from the Tupuna Taonga team. They went to amazing efforts to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable and ensure that everyone had a meaningful cultural experience. 

The cultural days were a great success with incredibly positive feedback from all the participants.  We received numerous messages from the attendees telling us how the experience exceeded their expectation, how much they learned and enjoyed themselves, and how the experience had led to a better understanding and appreciation of Māori people and their rich culture. And one of the most frequent comments was that these Cultural Days should be held more regularly.

Although most of the participants at each of the days were immigrants to New Zealand, we did have several native Kiwis also attend. This message from one of the participants nicely sums up the sentiment expressed by most of the attendees

I, as many New Zealanders, although living amongst Māori’s, have not had many opportunities of experiencing our indigenous countryfolk in their traditional environment exhibiting their customary way of life.  Only once, almost 30 years ago was I welcomed onto a marae in the traditional way. There were many of us, consequently, I was not able to obtain a great appreciation of the occasion.

At your event numbers were kept to workable limits and as consequence, we attendees had the opportunity to experience the local people much more intimately, thus gaining a greater understanding of Māori customs, traditions, way of life, spiritual understanding, respect for one another, provision of food and respect for from where it has been grown or sourced.

In addition cultural features of their way of life – music, a selection of their songs, instruments, creative art- of which we were invited to participate in and more. 

The opportunity to ask questions relating to the people, I found an interesting part of the occasion which gave rise to follow on and deeper discussion on various topics

Overall, a day that all who attended, I feel, would have come away feeling that it was a fulfilling and informative experience. 

In the larger context, I feel sure, should more New Zealanders be invited to similar cultural events the nation would be the better for the understanding gained. 

The C-U-E in the name CUE Haven stands for Cultivating Understanding and Enlightenment, and CUE Haven’s Vision is for “A thriving community native forest reserve where people come together to engage with nature and each other to cultivate understanding and be enlightened.”

Hosting events like these Cultural Days is exactly what we have always wanted at CUE Haven. 

Many thanks to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage for the funding and we hope they will continue to support such worthwhile initiatives.

And our heartfelt thanks to Kaumatua Haahi and his lovely daughters Rewana, Rita and Christina and Bruce and all the other members of the Tupuna Taonga team for their hard mahi (work) and their amazing manaakitanga (hospitality) and making these cultural days so very special for everyone.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: