Korowai marks special occasion
Tīhei mauriora
Ka tangi te tītī
Ka tangi te kākā
Ka tangi hoki ahau
Tīhei mauriora.

In April 2013, the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA) hosted the 50th World Congress of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) in Auckland.

As a member of Te Tau-a-Nuku (a collective of Māori landscape architects) and as one of a small number of NZILA members with some fluency in Te Reo Māori, it fell to me to act as one of the kaikōrero for the pōwhiri for the congress. I had also served for six years from 2007 – 2012 as the NZILA’s delegate to IFLA, the last two of which as president of the Asia Pacific region of IFLA, so it was appropriate that I should welcome my international whanaunga to my homeland.

I had learned of the existence of the korowai that had been presented to my tupuna, James Mackintosh (my great-great-grandfather) through my cousin, Joan Hughes, when, some years ago, she visited me and my family in Havelock North. She told me how the korowai came to be gifted to our common ancestor by the Ōraka Aparima Rūnanga, how it had been handed down from generation-to-generation until it reached Joan’s sister Robin Mackintosh, who, together with Joan, decided that it should be returned to the Ōraka Aparima Māori community.

The korowai has since been on display at the marae at Ōraka Aparima, and has been worn on a number of special occasions by whanaunga at university graduations and, on one occasion, at a presentation of New Zealand honours.

Because of the significance of the occasion of the pōwhiri for the congress, with Joan’s help, I made contact with my cousin Muriel Johnstone of the Ōraka Aparima Rūnanga, and enquired whether I would be able to borrow the korowai for the pōwhiri.
She kindly confirmed that this would be in order and the korowai was duly couriered up to me.

Although I had seen a photograph of the korowai before, I was overwhelmed when I saw and touched it for the first time. What care and craftsmanship had gone into making it. As I wrapped it around myself I thought of the warmth and generosity of those who made it and of my tupuna who must have served his community well to have been honoured with such a taonga.

The pōwhiri was held at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. I asked one of the kaikaranga in our rōpū to dress me in the taonga, as I had never had the honour of wearing a korowai before. As the spaces of the Museum filled with the tangi of our kaikaranga, a calmness enveloped me despite the excitement of the moment. When it came to time for me to speak, I felt a sense of being at one with the wairua of the korowai. I felt as if I was not alone.

It is now my wish to arrange a time when I can return the taonga to Ōraka in person, so that through the korowai, I can establish a connection with my whanaunga ki Murihiku.

Nō reira, e te whānau, ngā mihi aroha ki a koutou. Nāku nā, Alan Titchener.

Anei a Alan Titchener e mau kākahu te taonga i te pōwhiri.

Anei a Alan Titchener e mau kākahu te taonga i te pōwhiri.