Monday, November 30, 2009

Eeling at Wairewa

I stopped at Wairewa’s pretty Mako Marae on my way to Banks Peninsula last week and took these photographs through the fence – I LOVE that traditional style fence by the way. The marae sits on the edge of Little River Village about 30 minutes from central Christchurch and I last visited when I was writing the kai (food) series for Ngai Tahu’s TE KARAKA magazine (which is now free online by the way). As always, drawing memories of traditional hunting and gathering methods from the kaumatua (elders) was a delight – so much information about the old ways is fading and it’s important that as much as possible be saved before its gone.
One person who was generous with his memories was John Panirau, who has been eeling at Wairewa since 1948. He remembers around 30 family drains but he says the barrier between Lake Wairewa and the sea was much narrower then.
“The width of the bar has trebled since then and the sea no longer comes over all of it. The eels were much more plentiful too and it was nothing to catch five or six hundred in a night – and there was still plenty left for other whanau. “I remember one tangi we had, three of us lads were sent down to the drains and we were back in an hour with a hundred eels. The tuna were so keen to get to the sea they’d slither across the shingle in broad daylight and we’d just rake them up.
“You don’t see that now,” he says. As kids, he and his friends had to help prepare the drains and learn how to make the parua. “And if we made it too deep we were told off – and we were always sent home if we stepped over the drains. All those rules have been broken over and over since then. Nowadays people actually put bridges over the drains and that’s very upsetting for the old people. Tuna and the whakaheke is still a very important part of our community but as the elders disappear, the young ones change the tikanga. Many of them have not been brought up here so they don’t have the same feelings that the old people instilled in us. If you’ve been steeped in the protocols you’ll follow that pathway but when our kids are brought up in the cities the values are different,” John says.
Francis Robinson, 81, remembers the days of the horse and gig – days when his job was to run the bags of eels from the drains. It was his job to look after the horses and at twelve, he often joined in the catching and listened to the stories the old people told. “There’s always been a lot of mystery about where the tuna go and what they do and when it comes to catching and preserving them I’ve seen a lot of different ways. But it all comes back to one thing – hard work.” John Panirau agrees: “Learning to catch tuna is one thing but learning how to prepare and dry them was something else altogether,” he says. Francis says the job of preserving a catch of 500 tuna was a huge task that could take several weeks.
“We had to wipe the tuna clean, bone them and then string them up by their heads with harakeke to dry. Then the salting and curing would start. That was hard work and I’d always run and hide to avoid the job,” he laughs.The Wairewa kaumatua all agree that their local tuna are the best in the country.“When you’ve eaten eels from all the different parts of New Zealand, you know that these are definitely the best,” says Francis. The environment is different here; maybe that’s what makes our tuna taste so much better. Our tuna are definitely sweeter.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Maori Place Names - 39

Whangaparaoa (Cape Runaway)
East Cape, North Island
May 2009 Ajr

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Resting Place

I came upon this quiet country urupa (Maori cemetery) quite unexpectedly when I was driving near Kaiapoi recently. I know nothing about it but as the Kaiapoi area has a strong Maori history, it obviously has a firm place in Ngai Tahu history.

Friday, November 27, 2009

More From Hui-a-Tau

Three Candid Images Snapped on the Day
Ngai Tahu Hui-a-Tau, Takutai o Te Titi Marae
Oraka Aparima Runanga
Colac Bay, Southland. Nov.20-22.2009.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Bright and Shiny Moment

One of My Favourite Photographs
From Ngai Tahu's Hui-a-Tau
At Colac Bay, South Westland
November 20-22, 2009.

Maori Place Names - 38

Fantastic Multi-Directional Sign
Photographed Just South of Dunedin
South Island
May 2009. Ajr

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Training

Some were more energetic than others at Ngai Tahu's 2009 Hui-a-Tau at Takutai o Te Titi Marae at Colac Bay, 45 minutes southwest of Invercargill last weekend. Well known as an excellent surfing beach, the tides turned on moderate conditions on the last sunny day (after a massive storm the day before) and some of the waka paddlers were able to get out onto the ocean to practise for upcoming Oceania waka championships.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Maori Flag Gets the Nod

The Maori flag Tino Rangatiratanga, once associated with Maori protest, has been given the official seal of approval by the New Zealand Government and will fly from the Prime Minister's official residence on Waitangi Day in February. Of the flags suggested, Tino Rangatiratanga won the support of 80% of people consulted. It is likely the flag will also fly beside the New Zealand flag from the top of the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day. I photographed this flag flying from one of the many cars at Ngai Tahu's Hui-a-Tau at Colac Bay in Southland during the weekend.

A Southern Hui

If there's one thing the participants in Ngai Tahu's 2009 Hui-a-Tau at Colac Bay will remember, it's the changeable weather and the chaos it created. Located 45 minutes southwest of Invercargill, Colac Bay is a sleepy little bay, popular with surfers and those looking for a remote holiday. On a fine day, it is a glorious spot to be. In bad weather, when the southerly winds lash in from the sea, it's another story altogether. We had both for the Hui-a-Tau, which was held at Takutai o Te Titi Marae, home of Ngai Tahu's Oraka Aparimu runanga.

People began gathering outside the marae at about 5pm on Friday November 20th, waiting for the formal invitation to enter (the powhiri), as Maori protocol demands. An estimated crowd of between 700 and 800 had made the pilgrimage and as you can see in these photographs, we were blessed with a beautfil sunny evening for the occasion. At least half a dozen large marquees had been raised by a hardworking team, who had spent all week at the marae, making the necessary preparations.

By late Friday evening though, the weather had turned and raging winds and rain battered the coastline all night. By the time a bus load of us arrived at the marae at 8am on Saturday morning, eager to catch up with old friends and relatives at the monster marae breakfast, the rain was almost horizontal, one of the largest marquees had been blown down and rapid decisions were being made about transferring the hui elsewhere. Disappointed we drove back to Invercargill, only to receive the message that proceedings would be delayed until lunchtime. As it turned out, the rain stopped (for the most part) and although the freezing winds continued, a reduced hui programme carried on into the afternoon.

The next day - Sunday - the sun came out again and everyone was happy. The important discussions were held; the family connections were made; the market stalls went ahead; and every meal was a masterpiece of organisational planning and mouthwatering goodness. Tables at every meal were piled high with all the best seafood including crayfish, kina, cockles, mussels, oysters, fish and the titi (muttonbird) that Oraka Aparima and the marae are famous for. And by the time mid-afternoon arrived, most of us were reluctant to leave.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Birds of a Feather

The Kakariki is a small brightly coloured native parakeet that lives in and around the edges of native forest, often in large noisy groups. The red feathers of their head were prized by Maori for use in feather cloaks, or to secure to the ends of tiaiha (spears). The birds were caught with handmade snares using bait as berries. As legend has it, Maori used to believe that the brilliant orange-red feathers of another, much larger native parrot, the kaka, which has an incredible burst of colour under its brown-green wings, were stolen from the kakariki. Kakariki in fact, literally means small kaka. As Margaret Orbell points out in her very useful book, The Natural World of Maori, the birds sometimes raucous chatter has been likened to human behaviour in the simile 'ko te rua porete hai whakarite,' ‘just like a nest of kakariki.’ I took these photos of kakariki on Ulva Island, near Stewart Island – with a very small camera and from a long distance, hence the blurry quality. But they give you an idea of the kakariki’s vibrant colouring and distinctive red head.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kai Time!

Traditional Maori Foods cooked in a hangi (earth oven)
A mouthwatering offering at Tuahiwi Marae, near Christchurch.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Making the Most of Whitebait Season

Locals making the most of fine weather and the right tidal movements to go whitebaiting on the Kaiapoi River, just north of Christchurch. Whitebait, commonly Inanga to Maori, have always been a delicacy for all New Zealanders. I've written on this blog about traditional whitebaiting methods before so just enter whitebait into the blog search box, above left, if you'd like to read about that.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Making an Entrance

Another Stunning Carved Gate
Turangawaewae Marae
Ngaruawahia, Near Hamilton
April 2009 Ajr

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Souvenir Bag

One Cute Maori Doll
Playing with Poi
Seen in Kaiapoi Information Centre

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pounamu on a String

Pendants at the Arts Centre Market
November 2009 Ajr

Maori Place Names - 37

At Ruakokere
East Cape, North Island
May 2009 Ajr

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Favoured Tree

Small Cabbage Tree in Flower. Arts Centre, Christchurch. Nov. 2009 Ajr
Ti Kouka = Cabbage Tree
(From the Cordyline family)
The cabbage tree has always had a favoured place in traditional Maori life. Its leaves are tough – much tougher than flax – and they were dried and used to make bird snares, roof thatching and sandals for the feet. The root, the pith of the trunk and the sweet sap are all edible and because of their prolific distribution, the trees provided a ready and abundant food source. It is still said that if the cabbage trees flower early in spring, we’re in for a long, hot, dry summer. The cabbage tree is also incredibly hardy and resilient and if you cut it back – even severely – it sprouts vigorous new growth. (This is just happened to the large cabbage tree in my garden. It was recently topped quite harshly because it was interfering with power lines and already, just a few months on, it has several lush new bunches of leaves). This capacity to regenerate is referred to in the old Maori proverb: “Ka whiti te ti, ka wana te ti, ka rito te ti – When a cabbage tree is broken it shoots up, and grows a new head of leaves.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

School's In.

It was mid-morning when I drove into the Bay of Plenty town of Opotiki. The skies were impossibly blue and I was on the lookout for interesting things to photograph. Amazingly, I drove right past these spectacular gates at Opotiki Primary School. It wasn't until I was on my second circuit of the town photographing something else entirely, that I happened to glimpse them in my rear vision mirror.

It goes without saying that I made a hasty U-turn and pulled up outside the school. My wandering was short-lived though as a huge white bull terrior came bounding towards me. It was just one more of these hideous dogs that seemed to think I looked like a tasty snack. They're one of the few dog breeds that really frighten me. I leapt back in the car and took my remaining photos from the car window and I was unable to get the details about the carvings - other than the fact that the European figure represents Sir Bernard Fergusson, Governor General of New Zealand from 1962-1967. I loved the fact that so many primary and secondary schools from Opotiki onwards on my journey around East Cape to Gisborne, feature stunning carvings and ornate gateways. You rarely see such overt expressions of traditional Maori culture and craftsmanship - in the South Island especially - and I think it's marvellous that the kids in these areas grow up in the midst of it all. Like all kids though, I guess many take it for granted.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Bird in the Hand

The South Island Robin
Pitoitoi or Toutouwai
Like a number of small forest birds that had no use as food or for their feathers, the robin was considered by early Maori to have special powers in telling in the future. If you heard a robin's call on your right side, it was good luck and if you heard it on the left, it was bad luck. I photographed this little down down on Stewart Island. Robins are incredibly friendly and as you walk through the forest, they hop out onto the paths in front of you. If you scratch the earth with your hand, or with a stick, they'll hop over to hunt for bugs. Because their numbers have severely declined they are a protected bird and this little guy has banded ankles thanks to conservation efforts by the Department of Conservation.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Maori Place Names - 36

Looking down on Waihau Bay
East Cape
May 2009 Ajr

Friday, November 13, 2009

In a Quiet Corner

Old Plaster Casts
Of Maori Carvings
In a Christchurch Antique Shop
November 2009. Ajr

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bush Business

The Kidney Fern
Like the kawakawa and puriri trees, the tiny, low-growing kidney fern was often worn by Maori in mourning. In fact you'll still often see woman wearing wreaths of greenery on their heads during tangi (funerals). In a much broader sense, ferns have always been important to Maori - their leaves provided early bedding, and the roots of the Aruhe or bracken fern was commonly eaten after they had been pounded and cooked. And of course the koru - the unfurling fern frond - has always been a recurring design element in Maori carving and more recently in Maori art and design.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

By The Beach

Hawai is a tiny community on State Highway 35 that travels around the North Island’s East Cape. It’s little more than a cluster of houses and a very cute marae that is tucked away from easy traffic view by a hedge and a thicket of cabbage trees. It goes without saying that I stopped here during my Frommers’ trip around the Cape in May. I was going to get out in the hope of finding someone to talk to about the community but as soon as I stopped my car outside the marae gates, a large barking dog came bounding towards me. I leapt straight back into my car. I had already been cornered by wild dogs in three separate ‘remote’ communities in the Far North and I wasn’t about to tempt fate a fourth time.

Instead, I wound down the car window and took these quick shots of the marae – or what I could see of it. It’s the Tunapahore Marae, home base of the Te Whanau-a-Apanui hapu (sub-tribe), Te Whanau-a-Haraawaka and the main wharenui is named Haraawaka. Leaving the snarling dog behind, I drove further down the road and parked opposite the camping ground on a rise overlooking the beach. Waves were crashing ashore, licking at the piles of driftwood. Like almost every East Cape beach I passed on my travels, it was completely empty of people and if it hadn’t been for that dog, I would have wandered along the sands. But it was a case of onward-ever-onward and I left, feeling a little bereft at my coming away with just a few hurriedly scribbled notes. Another time perhaps…..


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