Over the weekend of 9–11 May, 28 rangatahi and supporters gathered for a mōkihi and taiao wānanga at Karanga Camp, just west of Auckland. The aim of the project was to foster cultural connection and identity, participation in Ngāi Tahutanga, and a greater understanding of some of the values, beliefs and cultural practices of our tīpuna.

On Friday evening one of our esteemed kaumātua, Kukupa Tirikatene, taught us about Māori spirituality, about Io and ngā atua, our part in the natural cycle, and how our caring for the environment flows into the way we care for our manuhiri, our visitors. He also taught tikanga marae, kaupapa, and the symbolism of some of the carvings and parts of Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae. We also learned hīmene, a whakamoemiti, a whakataukī, some expressions in te reo, and about the concept of tapu. Riki Bennett later enthralled us with his performance of, and fascinating kōrero about, taonga Pūoro, treasured Māori musical instruments.

On Saturday morning after karakia we harvested kōrari, the harakeke stalks and flax for making the mōkihi (reed boats). Another of our treasured kaumātua, Bones Rissetto, taught us how to make the mōkihi (or “mogi”), with the assistance of Antony Thorpe, Riki Bennett, and Jonathan Sargisson. Everyone got involved and helped out and we made two mōkihi waka, one to paddle and one to go on display. We took turns paddling our awesome waka on Lake Wainamu, and also had fun running and jumping on the sand dunes. In the evening we sang waiata, played guitar, told stories and jokes, and toasted marshmallows around the campfire.

On both mornings Jonathan recited he karakia mō te ata, “Ka haea te ata”, and on Sunday gave a kōrero to the early risers about the birds, and the environment, and the importance to our tīpuna of being alert to and in tune with the forest. A mini fire-making demonstration (from scratch) by Riki Bennett was a real hit with the boys, as was a hīkoi in the ngahere (forest), where Riki and Jonathan talked about Tāne Mahuta and traditional uses of our forest plants. We tasted some of the edible plants traditionally eaten or used for medicines by our tīpuna.

The wānanga would not have been possible without all the awhi and hard work of all those involved both in the preliminary stages and at the wānanga. Kei te mihi nui ki Te Kawerau a Maki, a big mihi to the tangata whenua, in particular spokesperson Rewi Spraggon. Ngā mihi aroha mō tā koutou tautoko mai ki tēnei kaupapa. Kei te mihi nui ki Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu mō tā rātou putea tautoko ki tēnei kaupapa. Kei te mihi nui ki ngā ringa manaaki; Meri and Riki Kohi did an amazing job in the kitchen over the weekend; and Riki Bennett was a key link with tangata whenua, and invaluable in accessing the raupō (reeds), and guiding the harvesting and drying process in the months prior to the wānanga. He also organised storage at Cascades Ranger station, at no extra cost.

Ngā mihi nui to him and all the rangers at Cascades. Martin and Becky at the Corban Estate Arts Centre generously provided free access to one of their storage rooms, for storing the raupō that had been dried. Harvesting helpers in the months prior to the wānanga included Rawinia Puna, Maha Tomo and his friend Rob Smith and daughter, Riki Bennett, Jonathan Sargisson, Brendan McCarthy, Sophia Stevens and Corrina. Riki Bennett and Maha Tomo were our photographers throughout both the wānanga and harvesting process. Thanks also to all those from Karanga Camp. Jonathan Sargisson oversaw and coordinated the project, liaised with all involved, and ensured the weather stayed fine throughout the weekend. It was wonderful to to experience the unique gifts and talents, enthusiasm and hard work of each person and to hear what each person learnt from the wānanga.

Nō reira, ngā mihi aroha, ngā mihi nō te ngākau ki a koutou katoa. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā rā tātou te whānau.

Mokihi 4

Mokihi 5

Mokihi 7

Mokihi 1

Mokihi 3