Monday, August 31, 2009

Singing in the Sun

I've visited two markets in the last two days and at both we were treated to some terrific strumming and singing by Maori buskers. I photographed this guy singing in the sun at the Christchurch Arts Centre market on Saturday. He's a regular there and, not surprisingly, a good crowd had gathered on the nearby lawns and seats to enjoy their lunch and listen to his music.

Waitangi 'Warriors'

Maori culture is very much alive and well in the Bay of Islands and while you won't see too many Maori roaming about town dressed like this, you will see performers like this at Waitangi National Reserve at Paihia. I met these two men as I was coming out of the Waitangi Visitor Centre and when I asked if I could take their photograph, they took up a traditional stance.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Maori Place Names - 23

North of Whitianga Bay
East Cape, North Island

Fenced In

A traditional Maori pa was a collection of houses on ancestral land, which were protected by surrounding pallisades. You won't find those in New Zealand these days, although a number of modern marae do have surrounding pallisade fences based on traditional designs. I photographed this new one a couple of weeks ago at Picton's Waikawa Marae, a Te Ati Awa iwi base.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Gift of Tiki

Black and White
At Ake Aotearoa

A Northern Ancestor

I photographed this stunning carving inside the Whare Runanga at Waitangi National Reserve - which I wrote about here a couple of days ago. This pou tokomanawa represents Rahiri, the Ngapuhi chief. Pou representing the other iwi (tribes) of New Zealand are placed around the walls of the interior, each displaying the ancestors and distinctive carving styles of their region.

Friday, August 28, 2009

More From "Digital Marae"

"Maui" Lisa Reihana 2007 Image Courtesy GOvett-Brewster Gallery
"Diva" Lisa Reihana 2007. Image courtesy Govett-Brewster Gallery
Two more images from "Digital Marae/Lisa Reihana"
The new publication produced by Taranaki's Govett-Brewster Gallery.
Click on Govett-Brewster in the label line below to read more about this 48-page collection of stunning photographs created by contemporary Maori artist, Lisa Reihana, who is currently Artist-in-Residence at McCahon House in Titirangi, Auckland.

A Favourite Food

Waitangi. April 2009 Ajr
It always seems a shame to me that Maori potatoes are not easier to come by. These tasty little nuggets, known collectively as taewa, or sometimes riwai, are much more flavoursome than normal potatoes; but it’s all about commercial reality – taewa have self-selected over many generations making them hardy and disease resistant but sadly, they produce fewer tubers than modern potatoes, so they’re not attractive to commercial growers. For Maori though, they have a cultural and historical significance and traditional varieties (over 18 have been identified) have been preserved and passed down through many Maori families. They were first introduced to New Zealand in the late 18th century and they quickly became a staple crop for Maori prior to the arrival of Europeans. Taewa, I’m told, is the collective name for several varieties of Solanum tuberosum, which have been cultivated by Maori for over 200 years. Some of the more common varieties today are the popular purple specimens – Tutaekuri (Urenika), Karuparera and Te Maori; the red-skinned Makoikoi, also known as the Chatham Island Red Rock; Raupi, Moe Moe and Huakaroro, which all have creamy skin and patterned flesh. My favourites are the purple-skinned Urenika, which actually look more like little yams, but I haven’t found any in ages. I must keep a look out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Waitangi - The Whare Runanga

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are home to two important buildings in national history – the Waitangi Treaty House, where the treaty was signed; and the Whare Runanga, a Maori meeting house. Both are monuments to a nation its people and its ancestors. When I was in Waitangi during my latest ‘around-New Zealand’ trip, I spent half a day at the Waitangi National Reserve, wandering the grounds and buildings with lead guide, Wil Napier (Ngapuhi). Wil was brought up on the reserve (his father was caretaker), so there’s no better person to have as your Waitangi tour guide.
The Waitangi Whare Runanga is a little different to most in that it is a building of national rather than tribal significance and as such, it welcomes people of all tribes and nationalities; and it is one of the few whare runanga that you are allowed to take photographs in. Its foundation stone was laid by Lord Bledisloe on February 6, 1934 and it opened in 1940 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. It is also unique in that its elaborate interior carvings are a monument to the ancestors of not one iwi (tribe) but to all tribes of New Zealand. The poupou (carved figures) down each side of the interior are arranged in pairs (28 in all), and because the whare runanga is in Ngapuhi territory, the Ngapuhi carvings of their tribal ancestors, Hineamaru and Rahiri take pride of place. The carvings for all tribes were created specifically for this whare runanga under the supervision of master carver, Pine Taiapa of Ngati Porou. Carvings from each iwi tell the ancestral story of each in their own distinctive carving style.

For Maori, the meeting house and marae (literally the grassed area in front) sit at the heart of Maori society and culture. They are a symbol of prestige, a monument to tribal ancestors and much more than a simple architectural statement. Each part of the wharenui (meeting house) symbolises a notable tribal ancestor – the head (koruru) at the top of the roof apex is the head of the ancestor; the ridgepole is his backbone; the bargeboards the arms (with lower ends divided to represent fingers); the interior rafters are the ribs; and the interior is the chest and belly.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Birds of a Feather

Meet Nestor meridionalis – The Kaka, a medium sized parrot (18 inches long), endemic to the forests of New Zealand. Although no longer as common as its close relative the kea (which looks very similar), you can still find kaka quite commonly on Stewart Island. There are four species of the bird and if you’re not venturing anywhere near Stewart Island, your best chance of seeing one will be in a zoo or bird sanctuary. Along with our beautiful, plump wood pigeon – kereru – the kaka was once a favoured game bird for Maori. It should be noted that they quickly learned the perils of its sharp beak, which could easily cut its way out of snares; instead they learned to spear the bird, or catch it by its feet. Its bright red feathers were also sought after for weaving kakahu (cloaks). I photographed this gorgeous bird in a Stewart Island garden in February.

Te Papa - The Galleries

The Maori Gallery
The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Image supplied by Te Papa.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Taking Time

"Dandy" Lisa Reihana 2007. Image Courtesy Govett-Brewster Gallery
Innovative contemporary Maori artist, Lisa Reihana believes things should take time; hence her latest artistic project Digital Marae was conceived as a project that will evolve over two decades. Reihana (b.1964) is one of New Zealand’s foremost film and multi-media artists and her work has been exhibited internationally and is in a number of major national and international collections. Now we have the additional pleasure of a richly-illustrated volume of her works, Digital Marae/Lisa Reihana, produced by Taranaki’s Govett-Brewster Gallery. Digital Marae explores the concept of the marae (meeting place), which is the traditional place, bound by complex protocols, where Maori come together. Various architectural components of the central wharenui (meeting house) act as conduits for the passing on of traditional knowledge through the paintings, carvings, designs and the tukutuku panels that adorn them. One of the major features of the interior of the wharenui is the pouwhenuathe carved figures that represent individual ancestors. It is these figures that Lisa Reihana has reinterpreted in a contemporary sense, producing haunting life-size photographs of men and women. In 2007 the Govett-Brewster presented the latest incarnation of Digital Marae (the first was in 2001); a suite of new photographs that reference atua (gods) who are male and takatapui (cross-gendered) figures. This publication, edited by Govett-Brewster Director and curator, Rhana Devenport, includes writing by leading Maori architectural historian, Dr Deirdre Brown and cultural theorist and sociologist, Nikos Papastergiadis from the University of Melbourne with Melbourne-based curator-writer, Victoria Lyn and others. Lisa Reihana is currently the Artist-in-Residence at McCahon House in Titirangi, Auckland. She was short-listed for theWalters Prize earlier this year and Digital Marae was short-listed for the 2009 Anne Landa Award in Australia, an acquisitional award for video and new media. Digital Marae/Lisa Reihana is now available through the Govett-Brewster Art & Design Shop, and selected bookstores around New Zealand and Australia. (ISBN 9780908848324; 48 pages; $25).

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Winterless North

Four months ago I was travelling around the Far North of New Zealand. The skies were blue, the temperatures balmy, the white sands sparkling. It’s hard to believe as I sit here in a Christchurch winter but these photos are proof. I stopped a while at Opononi and Omapere, two tiny seaside towns on the edge of the Hokianga and drove to the top of the hill to take some panoramic shots. When I came down again I saw the sign leading to Kokohuia Marae, home to the Ngapuhi hapu, Ngatu Wharara. I drove up the narrow lane and popped out on the brow of a small hill in front of the marae.
There was a man mowing the marae lawns and he stopped to chat with me. He talked to me about his life, growing up in the hills above the marae; about the recent renovations to the marae's wharenui Te Whakarongotai, which he was very proud of; and about life in the Hokianga in general – where 75% of the population is Maori. It was one of those lovely spontaneous encounters that saw me driving away feeling pleased and happy with life and the people I'm lucky enough to meet along the way of it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Art Deco ASB

This isn't the best shot I have of Napier's very beautiful ASB Bank but it's good enough to serve as a reminder, or a lead-in to an earlier posting I've made about the stunning Maori designs created on both the exterior and interior of this lovely Art Deco building. It's one of the most spectacular Art Deco interiors in the town and definitely quite unique in New Zealand. To see the original post click on Art Deco or Napier in the label line below.


One of the young members of the Kotane Maori Cultural Experience
Performing at Christchurch's Willowbank

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Maori Places Names - 22

Near Hokitika
The West Coast, South Island
August 2009. Ajr

A Northern Gateway

The Waharoa or Gateway to Te Uri o Hina Marae at Pukepoto, near Kaitaia that I featured here on the blog a few days ago. Either scroll down, or click on Te Uri o Hina in the label line below to read more about this marae in a beautiful Northland setting

Friday, August 21, 2009

Song and Dance

Traditional Piupui used in kapa haka performances.

On Display at Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, Rotorua.

Making a good sized piupiu is a labour intensive business. They can contain up to 250 strands of harakeke (flax), each of which has been treated by hand - often by several people. Once the treated and dyed flax has dried, it forms the thin cylinders that make up the skirt.

Waikawa Carvings

Two of my favourite carvings
On the exterior
Of the very beautiful Waikawa Marae
At Picton.
August 2009. Ajr

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ringing the Bell

This is one of my favourite little carved bell-shelters.
This one, outside the very beautiful St Mary's Church at Tikitiki on East Cape.
To see more of this exquisite Maori church filled with elaborate carvings and tukutuku panels, click on St Mary's Tikitiki below this post.

From the Kete Files

Kaitaia Kete
May 2009. Ajr

Maori Place Names - 21

South Island

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One Sunny Day in the North

It was a gorgeous morning on May 1st the day I drew to a stop outside Te Uri o Hina Marae at Pukepoto, on the road from Kaitaia to Ahipara in the far north of the North Island. It’s one of twenty-three marae in the Rohe o Te Rarawa, which covers a large area from Hokianga Harbour inland to Mangamuka, up to Awanui and part way up Ninety Mile Beach. Te Rarawa is one of the six Muriwhenua tribes – Ngati Kuri, Ngai Takoto, Te Patu, Ngati Kahu, Te Aupouri and Te Rarawa - who populate the Far North.

What most intrigued me here was the carving above the door of the wharehui, Hohou Te Rongo, which you can see in part in one of the images here (complete with resting swallow) and in its entirety on the wharehui in the top set of images. There is one remarkably similar to it in Auckland Museum, dated from 1400. The museum carving was thought to be a door lintel but experts now believe it may have been a roof decoration. It was found at Lake Tangonge, near Kaitaia, in the heart of Te Rarawa territory.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Forest Giants

This is a photo I took of Tane Mahuta – Lord of the Forest, in Waipoua Kauri Forest in the Far North of New Zealand. Thought to be in the vicinity of 2,000 years old, Tane Mahuta has a girth of 13.77 metres, a 58 foot trunk and is 168 feet tall in total. Kauri (Agathis australis), normally live longer than 600 years and many exceed 1,000 years old.

Sadly, over 90% of the kauri forested areas of New Zealand standing before 1000 AD was destroyed by 1900. The far north of Northland is now home to the largest kauri forest stands. They are among the most ancient trees in the world and they were always important to Maori – who gave the large specimens personal names. Kauri was especially favoured as a timber for carving, building and canoe-making because of its toughness and durability. The grey, smooth bark could also be peeled off in large sheets and used in a number of ways; and kauri gum was used as a chewing gum.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Tasty Dried Snack

When I visited Tuahiwi Marae near Christchurch recently, to write about the big hangi – the final in the set of kai features for Ngai Tahu’s TE KARAKA magazine – I got these great shots of Grenville Pitama smoking and preparing tuna (eel) for a snack for the men who had helped lay down the hangi. Once the prepared food had been safely laid on the hot rocks and then buried in earth and left to cook for four hours, Grenville hauled out his tin smoker and set it over the hot embers that had been removed from the hangi fire pit. He tossed a little manuka ash in to flavour the fish, laid down the pawhared (dried) Wairewa tuna and left it to cook for around ten minutes. “You wait,” he said with a grin, “That will cook up beautifully in just a few minutes.” And it did – golden, chewy, flavoursome.
A couple of years ago, one of our kai features had taken us to Lake Wairewa ( east of Christchurch, close to Little River. I spoke with many of the kaumatua (elders) about their traditions of eeling and one I remember was Naomi Butler, who was just ten when she started learning the tikanga of tuna gathering. It was always an important part of her life and by the time she caught her first eel at sixteen, she was well versed in family traditions and gathering practices.Then in her early eighties she talked to me about how eeling had shaped her childhood.
“I was the third eldest of fifteen children and during the war years we’d always be out gathering tuna and kaimoana. But Mum and Dad only ever took two of us at a time when they taught us how to catch tuna.
"Back in the 1920s and 1930s families had their own drain and we’d go and sit there at night and wait for the eels to come in. Everyone had to be very quiet and we’d listen for their tails flapping in the water. We had torches to spot them but you weren’t allowed to turn them on until someone gave the signal. The best time for tuna was when the sky was dark and a norwester was blowing. The eels would be thick then – hundreds of them, writing about in the drains,” she says.
“We’d gaff the eels in their hundreds and toss them into the shingle parua (pit) beside the drains. I’ve been there when over 700 tuna were caught in a night.”
Tuna migration has always had an element of mystery and strict tikanga has surrounded tuna harvest. They have traditionally been caught between February and April during the last quarter of the moon (hinepouri) when the nights were darker and the eels had begun moving down the streams and into Lake Wairewa, ready to migrate out to sea to spawn in the Pacific. Local whanau adhered to strict rules – food, drink and smoking were all banned from the drains and stepping across drains was equally frowned upon. I’ve written about tuna (eels) here before and shown the drying process at Rapaki, which you can see by clicking on traditional foods below this post.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

East Cape Base

Ruatoria. May 2009. Ajr
I took this photograph of the main office of Te Runanga o Ngati Porou one Sunday morning in Ruatoria on East Cape. The Ngati Porou homeland is the most easterly region of the North Island - beautiful, remote and largely unspoiled - and Ngati Porou territorial boundaries run fromPotikirua in the north to Te Toka a Taiau in the south. It's a mountainous area edged with stunning beaches. many say that one of Ngati Porou's greatest assets had been its remoteness, its isolation and its strong sense of tribal identity and sovereignty - its mana motuhake. You can read more about the Ngati Porou iwi by checking their website -

Listening In

Tribal Radio
Ngati Porou
East Cape
May 2009. Ajr

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Top of the South

On Thursday, I flew up to Blenheim for the day to carry out some interviews for a story on Maori health. In the process of that, I was taken out to Picton, to Te Ati Awa's Waikawa Marae. They've been busy carrying out renovations there over the last few months and everything is looking kitchen, new gardens, new fences, re-painted carvings, a new waharoa....lovely!

I particularly loved their beautiful wharenui (meeting house), [called Arapaoa], which was built in 1994. I wasn't allowed to photograph inside of course, but I have to say the interior carvings and tukutuku panels are stunning. I can however, show you some of the exterior carvings and the painted rafters. The carvings at every marae are entirely distinctive of course and these were a beautiful orange-brown I hadn't seen before - largely caused by weathering by the sea air.

A Gift of Art

A Gift of Art
From Queen Charlotte College
To Te Atiawa's Waikawa Marae at Picton
Picton. August 2009 Ajr


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