A Conversation With Mr ‘T’

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020/2021. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com          

(revised)

rangihīroa, Tī ‘cabbage tree’ with kāroro circling, Te Atatū, 10 June 2018

I was told

kākaho was the proud one

spurning the love of pingao

as she wistfully sought his plumes

waving in the wind

exalted above the sandy ridge

and with her rich toothy, green leaf grin

dragging hot ‘cross sand

not an introduction she’d planned

but that wānanga is wrong

isn’t it Mr Tī?

the light that reaches over Ōwairaka, Maungawhau and me

casts long shadows where we stand

and you demanded I shoot you, not kākaho, early afternoon

‘the light is more flattering’

a rustle in your messy top

broad, bright fluttering green leaves

as you casually explained

heroic

I want frontal, central, imposing

and if the shoot doesn’t give it

use Photoshop

you know, more than the Nor-Western motorway

I am Te Atatū

Don’t worry Mr Tī, I replied nervously,

there will be no rivals – not even kākaho

rangihīroa, kākaho, Te Atatū waterfront, 2018

I have followed your client brief to the t…

harakeke sits at your feet submissively

and proud kākaho (toetoe stem) has been banished

to the edge of Waitematā’s cloak

outside the shot

oh and one more thing: a small detail I must confide

I squinted up his textured trunk towards the sun radiating

behind his crown

him looking down murmuring a deep single syllable ‘ae’

and then softly, so softly one could barely hear it

above the chirp of matata and the squeeky toy twittering of the tōrea

rangihīroa, Matata ‘fernbird’, Te Atatū waterfront

a shake began

leaves clattering nor-wester

and around his trunk

a ghost hand massaging wīwī and coercing marshland grasses

I cleared my throat, perhaps a little self-consciously now

if you look closely at the photo

there are kāroro moving around your crown

they were squawking and laughing at me trying to get the shot

He said, no

they are admirers singling me out.

S O M E N O T E S

rangihīroa, Te Atatū shore line looking north-east towards Northcote

This is a revised post from 10 June 2018 and concerns two things – conservation and conceit against a backdrop of images taken on one of a couple of waterfront walks at Te Atatū ‘sunrise’. The dialogue is based on quite a different indigenous story concerning the native plants kākaho and pingao which similarly occupy the threshold domain between Tangaroa (the sea) and of Tāne (the forest). There are no sand dunes in the tidal mudflats of Te Atatū so I have singled out the most prominent native on location – tī, the native cabbage tree – for a more narcissistic version of the role kākaho demonstrates in the traditional story of unrequited love.

The setting is suitable for love but perhaps not self-love. The Waitematā tide was in and there was a view across to Chelsea Sugarworks, Northcote and further to East – the Viaduct and to the three Tāmaki maunga (ko Maungawhau, Maungakiekie and Ōwairaka) rising in the distance behind the rumbling nortwestern motorway as it heads towards the Rosebank, Avondale turnoff and further on the Te Atatū turnoffs.

My short dialogue involving Mr Tī had been brewing for quite a while since I first encountered the delightful story of pingao and kākaho in a publication produced by weavers who harvest the native fibre for their mahi ringa (tukutuku, kete and whāriki) and who also belonged to Ngā Puna Waihanga during the 1980s. I once accompanied a ranger in the Kaipara to gather the material for a meetinghouse, involving tukutuku utilising pingao, called Ihenga in Rotorua that celebrated the legendary travellers connection to the large northern harbour. Weavers who use the material, as with those utilising harakeke, are intimately involved with the maintenance and care of the sedge and its surrounding ecosystem. It is important to note here that this plant continues to exist in an increasingly fragile state on New Zealand coastal sand dunes. As I understood it these weavers were exemplary kaitiaki, truly practitioners of the whakataukī:

Manaakitia nga tukemata o Tane ‘caring for the eyebrows of Tane’

rangihīroa, pingao, Whāngarei Heads, 2020

The following account of kākaho and pingao is one of a number that tell the compelling love story:

From her home she [i.e. ko Pingao] looked up to the land and saw the young and handsome kakaho dancing on the sand dunes. Each time the kakaho made his appearance Pingao became more and more enamoured. Finally she asked permission from Tangaroa to leave the sea to meet her lover. Tangaroa granted her permission with words of warning that she would never make it.

However driven by blind love, she left the seaweed and crawled across the hot sand. As she struggled up she began to call to the kakaho – but he was interested only in himself. He was in love with his own shape and did not answer pingao’s calls. In desperation she called back to Tangaroa, who could do nothing but shower her with spray. And there on the sand dunes, the pingao remains to this day.Rangitane wānanga

For those sceptical regarding nature speaking. It’s not so much that nature talks perhaps more that we should listen. In my version singling out the tī is appropriate as it is a special tree whose name is contained within that of my Te Uriroroi affiliation with Porotī. It was there (outside Whāngārei on the way to Kaikohe) that a special ceremony was held to marry our ancestors with Waikato women and the cutting of the tī was the sign of the tomo ‘marriage negotiations’. This may relate to the raids of southern tribes on Whāngārei (Ōparakau, Parihaka, 1828) in retaliation for the raupatu conducted by Hika and our ancestral leaders who accompanied him in Tāmaki, Waikato and in Hauraki. So my choice of images is, as with any tribally based Māori, biased. Murua mai āku hara ne!

rangihīroa, tī flowering, Ōwairaka, 2019

I Will Need Words

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020/2021. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com          

He Kōrero Tairitenga

The following poem was a contribution to a panel discussion involving Andrew Clifford, [Director Te Uru], Catherine Griffiths [typography artist], Bruce Connew [photographer] closing and acknowledging the show A Vocabulary.. and the launch of its book at Te Uru, Waitākere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, 13 February 2021

rangihīroa, Ātarangi, Hato Mikaere, Ōhaeawai, tata atu ki te Pū o te Wheke

I W I L L N E E D W O R D S

rangihīroa, Northern Wars, 2020, coloured inks on paper, matai me Japanese cherry

rangihīroa, ngā parekura o Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua, Ruapekapeka, 1845/1846
rangihīroa, The Road to Ruapekapeka, 2020

10 SHADES OF CRIMSON

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020/2021. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com          

written for the opening of Bruce Connew, ‘A Vocabulary’, Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi 12 December 2020

E ngā mate. Ka mahara tātou ki ngā mumu Māori e takoto ana kei raro i ngā parekura o ngā pakanga whenua o mua. Haere, haere, haere. Haere ki te poho o te Atua, haere ki Hawaikinui, Hawaiki roa, Hawaiki pāmamao.

rangihīroa, Hato Mikaere, Ōhaeawai


The parekura
sits silent
no noise at all
just the chatter
of a tui
wrecking putiputi
down by the hall
just the wind
murmuring
across the fertile plains
he swore he heard their
voices around
Ngāi Kuku’s last remains
 
down by the river
where the fighting pā
once stood
or was it just the twittering of
piwakawaka
in the woods
 
the scale of the loss
disgusted him
it explained why he refused
the spirit path to Rēinga
instead he would choose
to guard over
bones and taonga
and mourn unmentioned loss
hidden from a nearby cenotaph
that refused to count the cost
 
raised to his last battle
near fields in which he toiled
he read the text again and again
as if it would reveal
some other truth or meaning
that might possibly transcend
a vocabulary of forgetting
bronze letters that won’t bend
colourful adjectives
murdering rebels, barbarous savages

he struggled with the message
they were a people worth forgetting

Indeed not a word
of his hapū’s bravery
no mention of their name
or that settler greed for land
was largely to blame
for a war they never asked for
how else could one explain
an eternity of loss within
a deep gnawing pain
 
and when archaeologists visit
he wishes he could yell
and call
Haere mai
E hoa, haul your trig over here, man
Yeah map us brother, draft us on that plan
 
but the grid only measures trenches
so we’ll always be missed
except by manuhiri
that want to take a mimi
 
and summer comes and summer goes
and the pōhutukawa bleeds
scarlet in the morning
10 shades of crimson
when the sun retreats

Pohutukawa ko tahi

Pohutukawa e rua
Pōhutukawa e toru..

Some notes regarding ’10 Shades…

My wife’s people, Te Aupōuri, live near Cape Rēinga. They along with iwi like Ngāti Kuri consider themselves gatekeepers to Te Rerenga o Wairua ‘the leaping off point of the Spirits’ at the northern extremity of Aotearoa. Many Polynesian Islands in South Pacific have their leaping off points. This role of kaitiakitanga at the departure point of wairua journeying to Hawaiki has created family histories where ghost stories are common. At times the Spirits stop along the way and there are visitations. The narratives told at night of encounters with the spirits are the most frightening and are remembered and passed on with relish and great drama.

10 Shades…, in essence, is a ghost story taken from the point of view of a toa ‘Māori warrior’ who decides not to take the path to Rēinga and remains with his whānau and the warriors he fought with on a Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua battefield. In the poem one of the greatest struggles the central character has is accepting a memorial inscription raised near the battlefield. History, so the saying goes, is written by the victors.

MAORI ART, the koru and 2019

rangihīroa, rauponga, pitau huruwhenua, morning 30 December 2018

 

© Rangihīroa Panoho 2020/2021. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author's express permission. Details for writing to author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com   The opinions expressed those of the author and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.
        Ka mate he tete kura ka tupu he tete kura
'When one red fern frond falls, another takes its place.'

                      he whakataukī

 

It’s New Year’s eve 2019 tonight. Aucklanders have fled the City for the beaches. They have escaped to the Northland and to the Coromandel coastlines. This place is a ghost town. Driving around feels a little like going back to the empty suburban roads of the 1980s during other periods of vacation. Many indigenous cultures have different concepts regarding the arrival of the New Year. For our tūpuna it was the months of winter (late May/early June) and the appearance of the star cluster Matariki  ‘Pleiades constellation’ that signalled the change. While June 10 was celebrated this year there was traditionally a longer, natural cyclic rhythm that brought cosmos and people together in celebration throughout tribal Aotearoa. Matariki was a time for the harvesting of natural resources, a time of reflection and a time of planning for the future.

While the heavens are a natural place to turn to this time of year (i.e. Bethlehem – the morning star and the Christian narrative) I am a Māori art historian and Māori art is full of natural cyclic symbols that may prove useful to this discussion. My book MAORI ART looks at the metaphor of rivers in our ancestral thinking as a way of considering the flow of history in our artforms. It may have been a short essay I wrote recently on kōwhaiwhai based artist Sandy Adsett that made me more aware of a rauponga fern sending out pitau shoots over the last couple of weeks. Photographing the fern immediately brings to mind one of the key design modules in Māori art – the koru and it is this motif, its history and its natural origins, that is the focus for the remainder of this short essay. The koru, I suggest, is actually a good metaphor for acknowledging the New Year.

There are many natural sources for the koru. While the spiral is commonly used by many cultures throughout the world the koru and its particular usage by New Zealand Māori is unique for a range of reasons. Firstly, it represents an aesthetic shift in Polynesian design history. The koru, and its many different manifestations in te toi whakairo ‘Māori woodcarving’ and kōwhaiwhai ‘Māori rafter painting’, constitutes a deliberate movement away from the angular forms and patterns that were part of the proto Polynesian aesthetic (particularly present in pottery, tapa and tātau) to a uniquely curvilinear form. The koru developed and flourished here in Aotearoa as our ancestors became increasingly isolated from their Hawaiki (i.e. their various Pacific homelands).

 

Sandy Adsett, Ngāti Pahaurewa and New Zealand Historic Places Trust restoration, HINERINGA meetinghouse, Raupunga mārae. Photography: Haruhiko Sameshima (commissioned by author) 19 January 1994, destroyed by fire 2007.

Secondly, the koru is a response to the equally unique natural environment found here in Aotearoa. The shape of the previously described unfurling fern frond is one commonly referred to as a source of inspiration for the koru. The pitau is embryonic and full of potential and that is what probably attracted our ancestors to the architecture of its growth. It suggests in its coil that life involves all sorts of possibilities. Life is potential. Tomorrow is another day that will unfold in a way that may be completely different from today. The unfolding fern frond also suggests a point of return in its circularity. It speaks of natural cycles, continuum and a returning…

Just the right motif, I say, to introduce the new year that so many around the world celebrate.

Nā reira, e ngā whāea, e ngā mātua, e ngā tamariki, e ngā kaipānui o ēnei rangataki. Hari tau hou, Happy New Year!