|Tony Hansen of Taranaki, delivering his mihi. Me squinting in the sun next to him.
I'm awake, and thinking about our mahi just finished, with a new cuppla days chapter beginning at dawn.
"Have you been learning te reo?" someone kindly asked me.
No, I replied, but I know http://maoridictionary.co.nz/ and I have a good friend who has helped me.
(So, I respectfully ask the reader to refer to that Maori dictionary. Words are life and culture, and English translation does not always do the Maori way of thinking justice. But language and translation is the only poor cousin we have in the absence of growing up at the feet of a kaumatua).
|Singing our waiata at the Festival pōwhiri
As mentioned in the blog preceding this, it is the ukulele that has brought us here. That wee instrument and the music we create with it is a catalyst that gives us new experiences and new stories.
Welcome to the Torere Marae
|Kiri, at home on her marae
You cannot (thankfully) predict death, and as we've found out many times at the bowling clubs we frequent in Newcastle, a wake takes priority over a ukulele jam session.
|A large shore dump dwarfs me. Click photo
Whilst this was happening an old bloke in a hi-vis orange vest was wandering around up near the marae house. Must be the maintenance man I thought. Muriwai walked up and chatted to him, and then they sat in the seat outside the marae house. Not just any seat. The seat. A shuffle of panicked whispering went around the group. They sat in the seat! Muriwai started to sing a karanga. It's on!
So we gathered into our pre-ordained order, women at the front, men at the back, and walked ceremonially up the path to the marae. One of our other members is also a Maori woman (as of course is Kiri), she started sobbing and was supported by her sister and a uke friend from her Australian home. The import of these ceremonies and the culture is so encompassing and present, and for the second time in the weekend I had to wipe away tears in relation to this aspect of our 'ukulele festival'.
|Uncle Rangi (photo by Bob Beale)
So we sat on the grass.
No! No! Get off the grass!!!! On the seats! John! Sam! Harry! Get off the grass! On the seats! Matt was whispering in an agitated voice.
Finally corralled into our seated order (men at the front, women at the back), Uncle Rangi began to speak in Maori.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou kotoa.
As with any formal speech, it went on for a while, albeit this time in a language few of us understood. But it gave us time to come to our senses, and to recall what our obligations were as a visiting tribe.
Koha! More panic,... Koha?! Koha? The whispers go around the group. Has anyone brought in any money? Nope. Phones, cameras, no money. We have to put a koha on the other side of the path when we have finished our mihi!
A mihi. That'd be me. Can I remember it? (No. No recall).
Hang on. My top pocket? Piece of paper. Oh. Phew. I just happen to be wearing the right unwashed shirt. It's there.
More whispering and furtive glances whilst Uncle Rangi continued - Hey Matt! (sitting next to me), I've got my mihi.
|Kiri's nephew, Matt, on the path to the marae
... That's really good! Do it!
And so, for the second time in our travels here, I deliver my mihi. And then I deliver the cobbled together koha from one or two people with wallets on person. Wrapped in an unsightly piece of scrap paper. I wander respectfully towards our opposing tribe, and gently place the koha on their side of the path. But we are not yet done.
This is where many ukulele players would come unstuck. I don't have my music! Or my lyrics... But here we were, spontaneous tourists with no ukes in hand. More importantly, no-one has any sheet music or lyrics to look at. We just sang. Enough people knew the words to cover those who mumbled their way through. But they knew the tune. Without ukes or sheet music people just concentrated on singing, on feeling the song, on opening up and experiencing the gravity of this ceremony and our offerings. It was wonderful.
We don't have any worthwhile recordings of our waiata, but there is always this version, with a karanga.
Our cultural obligations complete, we lined up for the traditional post-pōwhiri hongi, and then as
|Jane greets Ngaio as tangata whenua at the festival powhiri. Not quite a hongi, but close!
|Rosina and Sue on Kiri's brother's back verandah.
Thanks to Tony Hansen from Taranaki for my mihi,
And to Sue, Jane, Penny and Bob for photos. And thank-you to Kiri Hata for welcoming us into her community and tangata whenua.