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

Ētahi whakaaro whakaata mō te wai ‘some reflections on water’

© 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          
rangihīroa, have you ever tried to read water? 2018

If the ancestors’ eyes what might we see, if their hands what might we touch, if their ears, what might we hear? Whakarongo ki te tai. E tangi hāere ana. ‘Listen to the tide, lamenting as it flows on.’ Words radiate a ring path, skimming thin, slicing obsidian smooth — a face.
Like the tohunga ‘spiritual expert’ scanning the pools of Te Waiāriki — have you ever tried to read water? Can you feel their thinking about movement, sound, rhythm, light, space, distance, surface and … silence? In these words and their sounds:

wai whakaata ‘shadow water’, waiwhetu ‘water where stars are reflected’, waipōuri ‘dark water’, waipīata ‘glistening water’, waitematātuhua ‘water smooth as the face of obsidian’, wainono ‘water that oozes’, waingaehe ‘murmuring waters’, wairere ‘water that rushes’, waitangi ‘waters that cry’, waimate ‘stagnant water’, waimano ‘deep flowing water’
waikorohihī ‘hissing water’, waimāreparepa ‘water that splashes and ripples’, wairoa ‘long water’, waipao ‘water that causes the rocks to clatter’, wairua ‘second river’, waihi
‘strong current’, waimaha, ‘many streams’.

Like abundant tributaries feeding the flow, nurturing our art, refreshing our identity, the past is a point to which we must return. Me hokimai tātou ki ēnei puna waihanga ‘these are springs of creativity to which we must always keep coming back’. Whakarongo ake ana au ‘there might I listen’ — to reflect on, to consider, to feel, to encircle and to remain. Into these collecting points, ngā puna i te ao mārama ‘the pool of the world of light’:

that which was
is ‘becoming’
that which has departed
is increasingly returning.

Rangihīroa Panoho, MAORI ART History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory, Batemans Publishers, NZ, 2015/2018: 22-23
Northland wāhi tapū
Mark Adams, Te Rere-a-Miru, 1995
rangihīroa, Waitonga, Tongariro National Park, 2019
Rainbow Springs, Rotorua, 5 March 2019

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!

 

 

How We Belong: Te Parawhau and the Mangrove Tree

MaC VII

How We Belong: Te Parawhau and the Mangrove Tree

This post considers the connections between a native tree and a Northland hapū through the naming of one of their community buildings. It explores the importance of the local natural environment and its role in shaping an architectural metaphor.

 

Te hana ‘the radiance’ o te rau manawa ‘mangrove leave’

 

© Rangihīroa Panoho and PIHIRAU PRODUCTIONS Ltd, 2018. 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 or the Director of PIHIRAU Production's express permission. Details for writing to PIHIRAU are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com   The opinions expressed are mine and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.

 

Te Ihi Kikorangi Toka Panoho, Pāpā outside wānanga at Te Tirarau mārae, Tangiterōria, 2016

 

Tangihua te maunga
Kaipara te moana
Te Parawhau te hapū
Tirarau te rangatira
Te Aotahi te kāinga

 

E ngā pihirau o te manawa raki, e ngā paiaka e whakamarumaru ana kei raro i te ātārangi o te maunga Tangihua. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā rā koutou katoa.

Kia mahara ki ngā kupu aumihi a tā tātou matua Kōwhai Tito. Kua whakatakototia te rangatira ki te pūtake o te kaupapa ātaahua nei, arā ko te wānanga pihirau. Ka tupu te kōrero whakarite no tana mātakitaki o te uru manawa me ngā pihimano hā e tupu ana kei raro i ngā kāpuhipuhi o ngā manawa Kaipara. He rākau kōwhai kākāriki he kōhanga o ngā ika tini, ngā manu maha me ngā ngārara nui. He aha te kaupapa aweawe o te karere nei? Maaku e ki atu, e wha ngā meanui: te mauri o Te Parawhau, te hau o Kaipara, te mahi a te uri whakatipu me te meanui he whakawhānaungatanga hoki. Heoi rā, hei whakaaroaro mā tātou.

Titiro ki te matahua o te hapū. Kei te mohio koutou ki te mōmona o te waipuketanga o ngā pehu e toru; ko Te Aotahi, ko Piritaha, ae Māreikura hoki. Titiro ki te puanga o te uru manawa: e pihi ana tēnei, e pihi ana tēnā, e pihi ana tērā. Ko ēnei ahurewa hei whakapapa me ngā hononga o te mahi a te tamariki, ngā mokopuna me te uri whakatupuranga. E tupu ana, e tupu ora. Kia tupu tonu Te Parawhau, ake, ake! Tīhei mauri ora.

 

Mark Adams, he uru manawa, the beginnings of a mangrove ‘avicennia marina – subsp. australasica’ forest, Waionui Lagoon, Kaipara whanga ‘harbour mouth’, 1995

 

Mangroves are defined by the presence of trees that mainly occur in the intertidal zone, between land and sea, in the (sub) tropics. The intertidal zone is characterised by highly variable environmental factors, such as temperature, sedimentation and tidal currents. The aerial roots of mangroves partly stabilise this environment and provide a substratum on which many species of plants and animals live. Above the water, the mangrove trees and canopy provide important habitat for a wide range of species. These include birds, insects, mammals and reptiles. The soft substratum in the mangroves forms habitat for various infaunal and epifaunal species, while the space between roots provides shelter and food for motile fauna such as prawns, crabs and fishes. Mangrove litter is transformed into detritus, which partly supports the mangrove food web...Due to the high abundance of food and shelter, and low predation pressure, mangroves form an ideal habitat for a variety of animal species, during part or all of their life cycles. As such, mangroves may function as nursery habitats for (commercially important) crab, prawn and fish species, and support offshore fish populations and fisheries

Aquatic Botany, volume 89:2, August 2008:155

 

Pihi

noun: ‘shoot, sprout’

verb: ‘to spring up, to begin to grow.’

Rau

(numeral) hundred(s)

 rangihīroa, ngā pihi o te manawa ‘pneumatophores’, 2018

 

Names have power. Names have meaning. Names define ngā tangata whenua ‘people of the land’. Names are tapū. Māori employ and bestow ngā ingoa ‘names’ not simply to define or to honour the ancestors and their taonga tuku iho but also to encapsulate the hau ‘essence’ of a place, ngā tūmanakotanga ‘the aspirations’ of its people and to whakamana ‘empower’ an important object or form. Every important building, every waka, every special landscape feature and every precious structure in Māoridom has a name. But who would feel inspired by a sign written name that sits upper case atop this Te Parawhau building – in a small isolated Northland community? In response an anthropologist might well extol the importance of the emic approach, of being a participant in a community and of having access to greater insight into the values and aspirations shared within a group of people. A local might simply talk about tūrangawaewae, tapū and mana whenua.

 

Mark Adams, Te Tirarau mārae, Tangiterōria, 19 January 1995

Attending a tangi at Tirarau mārae in 2017 it was somewhere in the 27 metres that separate the meetinghouse Tirarau and the Pihirau whare kai behind it (see above image) that nomenclature was disclosed in six words. One of my uncles – Te Ihi Tito – called out to me, ‘Hey, you know the story behind the name…’ And out the kupu spilled – like a silver bellied tuna slipping softly out of a supplejack hīnaki.

It was given by Kōwhai Tito. [I remember seeing his portrait with family inside Tirarau. Now the shoots started popping up. One here. One over there. And then another. And the whole wānanga started coming alive].

Mark Adams, Pihirau te whare kai, ko Tirarau mārae, Tangiterōria, 13 January 1994. Referenced in chapter entitled Te Hana ‘the radiance’ (MAORI ART: History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory, Batemans, 2015: 58).

 

On the surface Pihirau is a half-round barn. Aesthetically it might be read as a rather pragmatic structure. It’s form was popularised by the English in their air force training huts during World War II. In turn it was borrowed widely throughout Northland from the 1960s onwards for farm hay barns and vehicle, implement storage and workshop spaces on rural and sometimes in town industrial areas. Maximising the use of internal space it is a building type whose redefinition in this mārae context has always fascinated me. It is the same old ancestral kaupapa and values that have always informed the landscapes, the architecture and the artforms of the indigenous north.

I actually love PIHIRAU’s beautiful combination of abstract shapes and the bare minimal functionalism of the half round corrugated iron barn with its two enormous upright rectangular doors and the voluminous interior. It does its job. I also was delighted in the 1990s to see prints of Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers lining the interior. I like the McCahonesque rendition of text that sits slightly oversized atop the stark geometry of the half circle. I accept it’s an art historian talking here and the accompanying sensibility places me in the minority as Te Parawhau is currently considering an overhaul of both the design of the meetinghouse and of the whare kai.  Hei aha. Whatever shape or form the final building takes, for me, the important issue is the hau, the ‘essence’ of the building; its name PIHIRAU, its giver, its history and the wider botanical, geographical and anthropological significance of this ingoa tūturu ‘authentic name’ are maintained. It is these areas, and ngā tikanga ‘customary values’ that underpin them, that form the heart of this essay and help define how we, as Te Parawhau and as Māori, belong to the landscape and to the natural environs.

Leading senior Māori artist Cliff Whiting, in his work with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, once remarked he experienced some difficulty convincing his pākehā colleagues in the New Zealand Historic Places Trust that these kinds of ideas emerging out of the aspirations and sensibility of grass roots communities were actually of primary significance.

He once noted fundamental differences in Māori and pākehā perceptions regarding mana ‘prestige and power’ in the buildings and historic sites his organisation was charged with protecting through their identification and conservation. He, and others like Ngāti Porou leader Apirana Mahuika, understood it was not solely or wholly a matter of size, grandeur, or historicity. Instead they rightly highlighted the less tangible legacy of the mana in a name, an individual or in an event as of supreme local value. All of these areas of ancestral importance were understood as enhancing the prestige and the treasured wānanga ‘narrative’ of a particular site.

In its naming the humble wharekai PIHIRAU at Tirarau mārae, Tangiterōria fits into this kind of paradigmatic shift that leaders, across the indigenous world, make in their references to landscape, buildings and history.

The true reference in the dining hall name is to the thousands of pneumatophores that push their way up through the mud, intertidal silt and leaf debris of the mangrove forests that line pehu on the Kaipara waterways and its voluminous delta. That image of shoots pop, popping up here and over there is an evocative one. In its wider sense the Te Parawhau kupu pihirau meaning ‘hundreds of shoots’ is a word picture referencing the hundreds of acres of mangrove forest that capture the hau of the Kaipara waterways (one of which sits alongside the PIHIRAU dining hall) and indeed typify inter-tidal areas around the whole Northland takiwa. Hundreds of shoots, hundreds of possibilities.

 

rangihīroa, manawa, seedlings, Te Auaunga, Waterview, Tāmaki Makaurau, 2018

 

 

PIHI

...pencil-like roots that stick up out of the dense, wet ground like snorkels. These breathing tubes, called pneumatophores, allow mangroves to cope with daily flooding by the tides. Pneumatophores take...oxygen from the air




https://www.amnh.org/explore/science-bulletins/bio/documentaries/mangroves-the-roots-of-the-sea/what-s-a-mangrove-and-how-does-it-work/

 

As a vigorous coloniser the mangrove has often fared badly in the nineteenth and twentieth century New Zealand psyche regarding perceptions of its usefulness and its central role in estuaries. The manawa is often wrongly cast as a scourge to development and as a troublesome, undesirable plant to both the New Zealand farm and to a real estate industry obsessed with uninhibited coastal views that involve water. Less known and less understood is its enormous botanical wealth, its central role in the seafood chain, its breakwater, storm and earth stabilising properties and its natural beauty and charm. Manawa grow and colonise where the tide take their seed pod. Where the fruit wishes to turn and to drop its roots to settle appears to be an intuitive decision.

Pihirau resonates many other connections with te ao tūroa ‘the natural world’, mahinga kai ‘food gathering areas’ and with te whakareretanga a ngā tupuna – ancestral legacy. Indeed pihirau, in its natural state, cannot be separated from any of these areas. This is why  Kōwhai Tito’s employment of the metaphor is so compelling. The leader’s kōrero whakarite is a richly layered one connecting the numerous oxygenating roots of the manawa with the complex umwelt ‘the environment’ of the mangrove (i.e. an organism’s unique sensory world).

Matua Kowhai’s metaphor concerning the growth and the fertility of the uru manawa has the propensity to say something profound about the fecundity of Te Parawhau but also quite possibly about human identity. Might the central tinana ‘trunk’ of the manawa, for example, be thought of as akin to the central line of the whakapapa with the hundreds of roots that radiate outwards (a number of times beyond the tree canopy) the many tātai that flow and feed back into the rākau?

In the link between mangroves and the haumako ‘fertility’ of ngā mahinga kai the connection with food and abundance is simply extravagant. Uru manawa host the life cycles of many other insects, birds and fish that in turn have historically sustained and provided for Te Parawhau. Mānawa are sea gardens and home to the karatī (baby tāmure), parore, kopīpiro, ngāoheohe, kātaha, mohimohi, kokowhāwhā, kanae raukura, pepe mango and tuna kawari ‘spotted mud whelk’, tuangi ‘cockle’, werewere ‘barnacle’, parore tio ‘oyster’, papaka and the karahu ‘sea snail’. In and amongst their canopy live many birds: the pōpōtai, riroriro, piwakawaka, matuku moana, pīpīwharauroa, matuku-hūrepo, kōtuku ngutupapa, pūkeko and the kawau tūī.

The birds take the locations of their homes very seriously. In the early evening just before the sun would set behind Omokoiti I have observed the kāhu flying back through South Kaipara valleys to their nests out in the Kaipara mangrove forests. Uru manawa are then vibrant symbols of whenua papatupu. By this I am broadly referencing Te Parawhau land and intertidal sites involving food provision, mahinga kai/mahinga ika and places for the cyclical nurturing and the growth of numerous organisms, plant materials (swamp paru hei ngā tae), birds and fish used by tūpuna.

 

rangihīroa, manawa seedling, Te Atatū, Waitematā, 2018

 

                       Oyster-studded roots

                 of the mangrove yield no finer feast

                 of silver bellied eels, and sea snails

                       cooked in a rusty can



 Hone Tuwhare,‘Friend’, Small Holes in the Silence, Vintage,2016:44

 

rangihīroa, uru manawa, Te Atatū, Waitematā, 2018

 

Haruhiko Sameshima, pehu, Kaipara river, Kaipara ki Tonga, 26 September 1996

 

The genus and local essence of matua Kōwhai’s image then is botanical. Long misunderstood the Te Tai Tokerau manawa is in fact unique to northern New Zealand (i.e. north of Ohiwa-Tai Rawhiti and Kawhia Tai Hauauru – see earlier Google map) and to the world. Avicennia marina: subspecies – Australasica is the only one native mangrove that grows here and is the southern-most edge of mangrove forestation in the world (a family that includes around 70 species). More importantly, for this essay, the manawa is a feature of Northland’s harbours and estuaries and in particular – the Kaipara. Since 2010 it has been acknowledged as a protected native tree.

It is difficult to get across how special these inter-tidal rākau are, in their forest setting, without physically seeing them from the water. En masse they rise up majestically 4 or 5 metres above the Kaipara waterways and in other harbours further north like Whangaroa they have a very domineering appearance over their surrounds. Who hasn’t felt overwhelmed by these sombre, deep green forests as one quietly passes by them on open water? Ihenga, a Te Arawa ancestor visiting whānau in the North, once complemented his hosts and extolled the value of the roasted para ‘king fern root’ as kai and as the essence of the region. However, when out on the water one cannot avoid seeing the hau manawa, the vitality of a mangrove forest, unimpeded by farmers or by developers and growing freely as they should, as today ‘the essence’ of Kaipara itself. The manawa really does belong to Kaipara and to Te Tai Tokerau.

 

Mark Adams, mangrove forests banks and mouth, Ōtamatea, lower Northern Wairoa, Kaipara, another aerial image taken 27 October, 1998. According to Northland Regional Council estimates Kaipara, as with four other major Tai Tokerau harbours, has around 1000 hectares of mangrove forest. Manawa perform an essential role in helping filter the harbour system, in retaining and making use of mobile sediment, in stabilising tidal fluctuation and in protecting against, absorbing and nullifying the adverse effects of breakwater, floods, storms and coastal erosion and in providing spawning grounds for important Kaipara species. The scale of the forestation in sites such as the Kaipara Harbour can be seen in Adams image taken from the air. Simply through their sheer ability to survive a rapidly changing deforested and even urban environment demonstrates in itself the way they continue to play a very important role in New Zealand’s coastal and estuarine ecosystems.

 

Returning to Whiting’s view of taonga the value Māori place on treasured forms relates not simply to what you think you see in the empirical, the scientifically verifiable cosmos in front of you but rather to the entire natural world in which the little things seen immediately are more broadly related. The ‘intangible’ is rarely what a satellite camera, or what a Mark Adams large format analogue camera can pick up. The ‘other’, in relation to a building such as PIHIRAU, is a different world entirely accessed and received through kōrero, ritual, whakapapa, long-term trust and through familial belonging. Let me, though, entertain this tangible area a little longer here to further explore this kaupapa.

Expectations of easy, accessible knowledge are both public and global. The Google Earth search engine promises, for example, ‘to explore the far reaches of the world, right in your browser’. Request ‘Tangiteroria’ (i.e. the location of the Pihirau building) and a globe will spin away from Africa and South America out into the vast blueness of the Pacific ocean and then down to Aotearoa, down, down further still into the North Island and then Northland closer and closer until…It tantalisingly hovers, stuck in the clouds, somewhere over the tiny Tai Tokerau settlement. Here buildings and ground features become a blur. Without paid access, to further cameras and greater detail, there is no more photographic information.

There are however limitations to what Google can offer. Here’s what the net search says. Tangiterōria lies 179 kilometres away from Auckland by road. It involves 2 ½ hours travelling time north of Tāmaki. It is 3.02 pm. It is early July 2018. It is the day after Matariki ‘Māori New Year’. This, appropriately for this discussion, is a time Māori traditionally made plans and envisaged the future. A reading tells the searcher a temperate 13 degrees celsius has been reached. It is mid-winter weather typical of this time of year in Aotearoa. There is further local information regarding broken cloud that can be seen covering, obscuring parts of the region.

Through the patchwork of cloud Google allows a searcher (if one knew what one was looking for!) to roughly sight the Tirarau mārae complex, the river that it sits beside and further structures that sit downstream. One can follow mapped coordinates. A tiny nineteenth century Anglican church is positioned alongside a Te Parawhau urupā. The Pihirau building is a part of this eclectic group. The rough layout is useful. It provides a plan view of the mārae and surrounds documented (i.e. from the ground, by boat on the Kaipara waterways and from the window of a hired plane) in images throughout this essay. From the height of the satellite one can make out the layout of the orange roof of Tirarau meetinghouse with its porch at the front and with its grey lean-to (that holds its paepae of ancestral leaders) at the rear. The pale brown rectangle of Pihirau dining-hall is discernible along with the urupā and small whare Mihinare (lower right) 250 metres downstream on Pukehuia Road running parallel to the meandering brown upper Northern Wairoa River and the fertile oxbow of Piritaha opposite. Speeding towards Dargaville across the bridge (a little further upstream) spanning the upper reaches of the Northern Wairoa River on State Highway 14 (the grey straight road that doglegs upper centre) one might also easily miss Tangiterōria altogether. The place it is that small.

Here is the point in all this detail. One could read this technical, geographical information, provided 244 metres in the air via the satellite camera and not be any clearer regarding the cultural significance of the view. The more comfortable Māori way of dealing with this obfuscation would be to weave this bricolage of ancestral sites into the broader whakapapa and family to which these buildings and wahi tapū properly belong.

This belonging involves the intangible, the invisible, the spiritual, the cosmological, the ancestral and is a constantly referenced co-existent tūrangawaewae ‘place to stand’ in Māori thinking and kōrero. The ‘other’ map that Google doesn’t reference, that I am outlining here, is one frequently referenced by Māori in ngā kōrero whakarite ‘metaphors’ and ngā waitohu ‘symbols’. The primary purpose of applying these philosophical constructs is whakawhanaungatanga or making the taonga belong within its family context. This might be a botanical family, an ancestral family, an architectural family and/or a language family. In the Māori world everything must belong.

3 Google maps, 2018 (above): Tangiterōria. Detail (top) showing Tirarau mārae (est. 1958) and the wider context with State Highway 14 crossing the upper northern Wairoa at Tangiterōria half-way between Dargaville and Whāngārei (middle). The Te Parawhau leader Te Tirarau’s pā (established 1838) sat on the edge of the oxbow which carries the same name Te Aotahi (upper right in the middle image above).  The lower map stops at Raglan (i.e. near Kawhia) on the West Coast of Waikato rohe and this is recognised as the southern boundary of the great manawa forests passing across to the East Coast (not described) towards and including Ōhiwa harbour just south of Whakatāne.

In terms of people belonging to their landscape the manawa helps one belong. It takes the map somewhere else. Further, the central role of maharatanga ‘memory’ and whānau networks, as they pertain to ancestors renders Tangiterōria, perhaps surprisingly for some, a richly layered site through a broader web of interconnections with other rivers, tūpuna, taniwha and terrain.

Long before satellite cameras were sent into orbit or even cameras from balloons were first employed for military reconnaissance during the Napoleonic era (Franco-Austrian war 1794) our tūpuna conceptualised the land from the air. Te Parawhau, and speakers from many other northern rohe, have traditions of orators skilfully employing the aerial view – what I will describe as the vantage point of the manu karere ‘messenger bird’. This keen awareness of geographical context, the conceptual layout of the land goes well beyond early Māori excursions into cartography (i.e. see Tuki – Ngāti Ruamahue, Wainui, Whangaroa – map of Aotearoa drawn for the Governor of New South Wales in 1793) and back to our proto Polynesian ancestors and their discovery of land in the Pacific. Ngāpuhi regularly use the Te Tai Tokerau region to spatialise te whare o Ngāpuhi composed of key iconic mountains that encircle the rohe.

The Māori map, as with all Polynesian spatialising of the Pacific, esteems broader family connections. These are relationships and networks, not cartographical in nature, that avoid the isolation and the weakness of singular components. It is the Polynesian hero Māui who is celebrated in Aotearoa as using the magical jawbone matau of Muri-ranga-whenua to fish up the North Island of Aotearoa from his vessel – te waka a Māui ‘the South Island’.  Many of the landscape features of the North Island, as with many islands throughout the South Pacific, are read as the distinctive body (i.e. mouth, tail, spine, fins and so on) of a living form that relates back to those who originally discovered the lands. In the case of Aotearoa it is an ika ‘fish’ or te hutinga-a-Māui that is referenced in a number of our origin stories. Māui is not just a mythical hero, Māui is made to belong. He is both an ancestor and he claims the land – that is ancestral.

As part of his evidence, presented by Te Parawhau at a Waitangi Tribunal sitting, matua Te Ihi Tito employed this kaupapa in his whaikōrero. Sometimes matua is the manu karere ‘messenger bird’ that soars above his vantage point to swoop down over parts of the tribal region he wishes to pick out. During the tribunal kōrero he is also (i.e. in terms of shared whakapapa) the water that starts from within the mists that starts to rise from our shared cosmology (i.e. te wehenga o Ranginui rāua ko Papatūānuku) and the rain that falls as the tears from the skyfather. Empathising with the mamae of Tane’s forcing the primal parents apart matua moves on to the water that wells up from within Papa and our local matapuna, that collects in our watersheds and that courses through the network of waterways that broadly and more deeply establish our kotahitanga ‘unity’ throughout our Te Tai Tokerau rohe.

At various points in his gathering of these waters matua refers to links between Te Parawhau, Te Uriroroi and, in the wider tribal sense, to te whare o Ngāpuhi. The land is a tinana with arteries pushing around the blood that connects its tāngata whenua. These estuarine lands, historically not quite land not quite water, are lungs inhaling and exhaling; tai pari, tai timu. They, the pukapuka ‘lungs’, are named. They are the vast marshlands of Hikurangi and the tide of Rahiri, our northern eponymous ancestor. The mention of the latter ancestor hints at tapū sites like the impregnable pā of Whīria connected with both the eponymous tupuna but also with occupation as far back as our proto Polynesian ancestor Kupe.

rangihīroa, wānanga run by Ngāti Hau o Mangakāhia, atop Whiria, Pākanae overlooking whanga Hokianga 2015

 

Mark Adams, looking across the Papakanui Spit, Kaipara ki Tonga and Te Moana tāpokopoko-a-Tāwhaki towards Pouto, North Kaipara Head

 

Mentioning the wider highways of water also alludes to the passage of ngā tūpuna between northern affiliations like Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Manu, Ngāti Ngiro and Ngāti Ruangaio and back to the inner reaches of the Hokianga, to Ngāti Hau of Ōmanaia. This is a landscape alive, bursting with lifegiving properties, with mana, with hau and with mauri. It speaks with the language of memory; te maumaharatanga o te waiheke and of tātai ‘plans and ancestral lines’, of whānau and of begetting.

There is a fluid movement between the spiritual and the physical landscape (i.e. Google map). There is here a mahere pae tukutuku ‘site map’ brimming with taniwha and portents that inhabit waterways. Listening to the kai kōrero the listener sees what these beings see. The listener sees the portent of Rangiriri – the frightening black tōtara log that punches against the violent tidal shifts and undertows of tidal Northern Wairoa. The taniwha on whose branch a kawau ‘shag’ quietly sits. The listener experiences the mountains the log quietly passes, and nearer the graveyard at the meetingplace of Kaipara’s five rivers the listener hears the awe-inspiring rumble of Te Moana tāpokopoko-a-Tāwhaki.

Mark Adams, View from Ngitu Pā over Papakanui Spit, looking towards Te Moana tāpokopoko-a-Tāwhaki, whanga Kaipara. This lagoon below is associated with the taniwha Pokopoko.

In this taiāwhiotanga o ngā whenua ‘encircling of the land’ recounted in Te Ihi’s wānanga one witnesses all these geographical components operating as part of the breathing pneumatophores of matua Kōwhai Tito’s manawa. The waterways and the ancestral pathways are the oxygen that provides sustenance for the central growth of the tinana ‘the body’ of the manawa. What else does one need to breathe and to belong?

Ka moe a Mangakāhia, ka moe i te Wairua, ka puta ki waho ko te Wairoa me tona mana a Hoeroa, ko Pokopoko, Kahukura ngā taniwha ā ko Rangiriri te rākau whakangautai...Ka rere te tai tapu ki Waihīhī kei raro ngā maunga Whatitiri, Tangihua, Tūtamoe, Tokatoka, Maungaraho, Maunganui, me o rātou whakataukī e...                  

Te Ihi Tito, kaumatua, Te Parawhau

 

 

 

 

 

Hamish McDonald, logo design for PIHIRAU, 2008

READING the SIGNS: historic Kerikeri MaC VI

MaC VI

© Rangihīroa Panoho and PIHIRAU PRODUCTIONS Ltd, 2018. 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 or the Director of PIHIRAU Production's express permission. Details for writing to PIHIRAU can be found on the opening page of this website. The opinions expressed are mine and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.

 r@ngihīroa, our rivers are dying, signage, 2018

 

 

 

R E A D I N G  the   S I G N S:

the uneasy confluence of past and present in historic Kerikeri

 

The hinterland clearly signals ones arrival in Kerikeri. Miles and miles of citrus orchards set on heavily watered volcanic soils offer signs as to the nearness of the town. Apart from grand frontage driveways these deeply set māra sit mysteriously behind their enormous hedges of tall bamboo, Australian gum and native evergreen. This is a place whose very name suggests fertility, verdant gardens and the abundance of pure water. ‘Dig, dig’ might be one colloquial translation.

As a child travelling on Northland’s railway buses (towards Whangaroa and Muriwhenua or south back to Whāngārei and then east to Dargaville) inevitably meant briefly stopping in most northern towns along the way. There was always something magical about the steep drive down to this inlet. If you sat left window-side you might catch the first glimpse of the white timber weatherboards of the colonial mission set back behind the huge patchwork of stone comprising historic Kemp store. Intuitively, even as a child travelling with family, one knew one was moving through a special, perhaps even sacred, space.

 

r@ngihīroa, Kemp store (left edge), Mission House background, Kerikeri, 11 March 2018

Today the town area and surrounds of Kerikeri have been transformed. It has become the wealthy retirement capital of the north. It possesses a vastly expanded range of commercial ventures and shops, residential houses, retirement complexes and a booming real estate industry. As with other regional centres in New Zealand this blossoming has also brought with it ongoing stresses on its land and the viability of its one major local waterway that runs into the Bay of Islands. Aside from these environmental stresses Kerikeri, in its waterside historic quarter, possesses a whakapapa that feels tangible, compelling and immediately available. But is it? Many important early colonial Māori sites around Aotearoa require reconstructions, carefully rehearsed narratives and powerful imaginations on the part of the viewer/visitor to make sense of earthworks, remnants or archaeological ruins…

r@ngihīroa, Kemp store (left edge), Mission House background, Kerikeri, 11 March 2018

 

Historic Kerikeri seems to wear its history on its sleeve. The sheer volume and permanency of its Georgian style stone store (1832) and the extant condition of the mission building (1822) sitting alongside it is compelling. It makes one feel history is in the air. The buildings seem to speak for themselves. To me they appear statements about the strange new missionary culture that arrived further south on Christmas Day 1814 on the beach of Ruatara’s Rangihoua. For a moment of time this place was a key site bringing dramatic changes to all tribal rohe throughout the country. Kerikeri was the canary in the coalmine of its time.

 

r@ngihīroa, Kemp store,  Kerikeri, 11 March 2018

 

The buildings speak about the permanency of the colonial vision and a determination to protect and maintain a very different aesthetic and cultural sensibility. I would however, maintain that the real historical power of the Kerikeri site is present in the fortified coastal pā Hongi Hika had set up across the inlet at Kororipo. Is it significant the bridge connecting the historic Māori dimension of the inlet has been removed? Looking across the inlet one sees the back of a sign and a dead end street adjacent Kororipo pā. To make any sense of what that whakapapa might mean a visitor would have double back around Kerikeri and visit an archaeological reconstruction and the usual heritage information.

Meanwhile on the mission side of the ford reminders are vivid. On a recent visit inside the stone store a portly middle aged woman wearing 1830s English garb (i.e. funny hat and apron) rang a bell. In her distinctly English accent she announced to all potential customers a mission tour was about to start, ‘…tickets can be purchased for $10 at the counter’. Avoiding the coercion I  promptly escaped outside to a truncated wharf overlooking the inlet. Here more information, more signage, clarified what the historical English presence on this side of the ford meant. You really can’t get away from it. The various contributors to Binney’s edited work ‘Te Kerikeri 1770–1850 The Meeting Pool‘ claim Kerikeri constitutes a merging of the two cultures. I usually warm to the use of these kinds of metaphors and their potential for suggesting middle ground. However, bearing in mind all one really can experience today at the Kerikeri inlet (south), indeed in the township itself, is largely mono-cultural visible and tangible confluence must surely be strictly historical. Reading or listening to the history on offer simply reinforces this position. Take the sign at the wharf and its account of rangatiratanga and mission activity:

 

The Kerikeri Inlet later became the key launch site for Ngāpuhi waka tauā...Campaigns that set forth from here had dramatic ripple effects on iwi boundaries throughout the North and South Islands...Kerikeri became home to a community of god-fearing families from the British-based Church Missionary Society. Iwi competed with each other for the trade opportunities that both whalers and missionaries brought and politics in the Bay of Islands could be complex and difficult. It was 1819 when Ngāpuhi chief Hongi Hika strategically secured the CMS’s second New Zealand mission station on his land right here.

 

r@ngihīroa, wharf looking towards Kerikeri river ford and Kororipo pā area upper far right, 11 March 2018

 

Right here, as in right here. Behind the sign the view extends across the inlet. I have always found it an inspiring and picturesque panorama with the flicker of light across the little waterfall, the ford, to the far left where the Kerikeri river empties into the waterway connecting the site downstream with other parts of the Pēwhairangi coastline. Something though is not quite right about the pristine and romantic view of the past. Something is not right about the presentation of this past and its relationship with the present. Were one to pursue the water metaphor Binney once employed about the Kerikeri basin one might conclude, here at least in a conceptual sense, only one stream is flowing. Not much confluence is now taking place in this inlet.

In contemporary Kerikeri, with its abundant shopping, its booming real estate, its expanded commercial and community enterprises and its pākehā retirement homes, one feels an urgent need to locate another flow. The musical term counterpoint might seem appropriate. I have been reading the useful collection of essays, ‘Voyages and Beaches: Pacific Encounters, 1769-1840’. That publication portrays colonial Aotearoa in its broader Pacific history as messy, layered and not at all harmoniously blended. Referencing an alternative point of view, as a student, I remember Binney provocatively using the phrase mōkai ‘pet’ to describe the early nineteenth century Māori position on missionaries and traders. She described them as assets useful to ambitions of hapū.

In the Kerikeri signage I have quoted the Māori presence might easily be misinterpreted as simply aiding the colonial project (i.e. see wording regarding CMS Kerikeri – and strategically secured land – 1819). Little mention is made of the actual purpose of the powerful leader Hongi Hika securing land at Kerikeri through war from Ngāti Miru and Wahineti. No suggestion is given of the subservient role missionaries actually performed. The very lives and livelihood of the CMS families relied entirely on the beneficence and on the protection of powerful Māori patrons. In such public offerings one is not likely to find details such as Hongi Hika commandeering the Kerikeri Mission blacksmith to cast musket balls for his tauā and their war expeditions south. Nor will one find reference to the role of later disgraced CMS missionary Thomas Kendell in purchasing for and trading muskets with Māori. These kinds of conflicting narratives bring much more balance, ambivalence and interest to the reading of New Zealand history and key sites like Kerikeri. Locally such wānanga also bring greater spatial reality to the mission station behind the wharf sign and the imaginary early nineteenth century flotilla in front. One might better envisage the trade that had already taken place between Hongi and Kendell prior to the former assembling his well-armed warriors en-masse adjacent where the wharf now stands.

Māori historian Pat Hohepa in his Voyages and Beaches… essay, ‘My Musket, My Missionary, and My Mana’ writes the following:

 
Ruatara [at the Rangihoua Mission] and Hongi Hika [at the Kerikeri Mission] began the battle to attract and hold missionaries, thinking they would have the kind of political power their own tohunga had...Missionaries had their own opinions of their worth. But later, Ngāpuhi realised that missionaries - apart from [Thomas] Kendell for a short while – had less mana for them than local traders. The traders lived with and among Maori, absorbed into their culture and mores as pākehā Māori, and sided with them in their hapū skirmishes. The missionaries with their wives lived in a mission with other missionaries, usually separated from Māori community control, with ghettoism a real danger.

My thoughts go back again to the earlier Kerikeri inlet image where one looks across to cut-off Kororipo pā largely separate today from the better known mission centre. There are serious spatial problems, in the middle ground, with the central waterway (i.e. minus the linking bridge) now separating the two sites. There are also problems with the environment in which these important historical sites are located. The Kerikeri river’s matapuna, its headwater, begins in a more pristine condition within Pukeiti ngahere horomata, north-east towards Kaeo around 20 kilometres inland. By the time it reaches the Taumarere inlet enormous changes have taken place in its health. It has moved through heavily planted lands with over fertilised soils and intensive residential and commercial runoff. The Kerikeri inlet sign (below) at the end of that journey vividly describes the effects of this treatment of the taonga and the current condition of its confluence on arrival in the basin. Bright red and fluorescent yellow and sponsored by the Far North District Council and Northland District Health Board the placard advises:

             HEALTH WARNING / HE TŪPATO HAUORA


  This water is polluted   /  Tēnei wai e mōrikarika ana i te tutae
  No swimming              /  Kaua e kaukau i tēnei wahi
  No Shellfish collection  / Kaua e kokohi mātaitai, kaimoana rānei

 

r@ngihīroa, wharf sign looking out across Kerikeri river basin, 11 March 2018

 

The English version says the inlet is polluted. The Māori translation specifies why it is polluted. ‘Tutae’ refers to excrement or ‘shit’ without the same vulgar sensibility it has in English. The title also infers the nature of the health risk in te reo. ‘Hauora’ has a number of affiliated meanings: hauora tinana ‘physical health’ and hauora wairua ‘spiritual health’ are two important dimensions. It is normal for Māori to see the two as symbiotic. What we as New Zealanders do to the land or waterways affects both our physical and our spiritual health. I would also add another dimension to this balance (perhaps more properly – imbalance). What we do to the telling of our histories also affects our hauora as a nation.

Considering the invisibility of a Māori presence in such an obviously Māori site do similar considerations need to be flagged (i.e. as they are in the Health Warning)? Does there need to be signage alerting the viewer as to the pollution and alteration of indigenous histories being emptied out in our public spaces?

Kerikeri inlet is only one of numerous polluted historic waterways throughout Aotearoa. However, is physical health the only measurement of our nation’s degraded waterways? Is it possible our histories sometimes suffer from a lack of clear balance and a lack of cultural and archaeological complexity appropriately acknowledging the importance and vitality of the indigenous component? My ten minutes are up. I can hear the mission bell ringing. Another guided tour is about to begin.