beautiful monsters: Rotorua adventures Part I

April 17, 2004

Rotorua adventures Part I

Signs of a thaw? Actually it’s been sunny all week and not too cold, but I’ve been up in Rotorua, which always seems to make me sleepy. Something to do with the change in altitude – I could quite happily sleep all day. Unfortunately that’s not a possibility, what with all the essays, preparing a menu for a hui that’s taking place first week back, and going on a quest for a waiata...

For one of the courses I’m doing we have to research a traditional waiata from our region. At first I just panicked and didn’t know where to start. I looked up some books in which old waiata were recorded, but I had no idea if any of them were still used, or how widely they were known. I needed to find one that was recorded on CD, or that someone could sing for me, so I could teach it to the class later. I know a fair few Celtic tunes, but some of them are very long, quite hard to teach I think... and I don’t know if I could get away with presenting them anyway!

At the marae I’m involved with, Tapu Te Ranga, I’ve only learned contemporary waiata like Hirini Melbourne’s. But Bruce, who founded the marae, is Te Arawa links, and that’s the region where I spent my childhood years, so it seemed that that was where I should be looking. Still, who to ask and where to go? I still had my nose in the books, but wasn’t getting anywhere, so I spoke to a friend of mine who has done the course before. She gave me the sound advise that the journey I took to find a waiata was as important as which one I ended up with, and that the point of the assignment was to get us going “back to our roots,” and making connections with people. “Say some karakia and see where you get taken,” she told me.

With these new insights I discarded the books in favour of the telephone and a few prayers to my ancestors. Luckily my mum has been working on a conservation project, protecting the bush on Mount Ngongotaha and also the Ngongotaha stream, and some members of the local hapu, Ngati Whakaue, have been involved. She had a connection with one of the kaumatua, Pihopa Kingi, because they had worked together in the Kaingaroa forest back in the 70’s. She gave him a call, and he invited us to meet him down at Ohinemutu the next day.

When we got down to Te Ao Marama, the hall beside St Faith’s, there was no sign of Pihopa Kingi, but there was a woman standing in the hall with a perplexed look on her face. “I’m supposed to be setting up the hall for a meeting,” she told us “but I don’t know how they want it. Someone was supposed to be meeting me here, but I’ve been waiting for half an hour.” So we put our stuff down and helped her to arrange the tables, and I told her about my project. “Oh, I can’t help you with that,” she said laughing. “I can’t sing. I’m better in the kitchen.” It turned out that the meeting she was setting up for was a public meeting with Gerry Brownlee of the National Party talking about the seabed/foreshore issue.

Once the hall was set up we moved outside into the sunshine, and right on cue a figure appeared walking down the road towards us. “There he is,” said our companion. “That’s Bishop Kingi.” I’m not sure how old he is, he was getting on a bit even when my mum first knew him, but he’s still looking pretty spry. He was smartly dressed, with a boater hat placed at a slight angle on his head.

He chuckled as my mum demonstrated that she could still remember the pruning techniques he taught her, and then chuckled again when he saw my Tino Rangatiratanga t-shirt. “You make sure you stand where Gerry Brownlee can see you,” he said. Then he handed me the words to “Kaore te aroha,” a well known waiata from Te Arawa, and he told me a bit about the history of the song. “And how does it go? Can you sing it?” my mum asked him. “Well yes, I’m going to sing it just now, at this meeting,” he told us. So my mum and I hovered at the back of the National meeting. As well as us, Pihopa Kingi, Gerry Brownlee and his entourage, there were a few well known local National supporters, at least four reporters and two photographers. There were four or five other people, presumably at least one or two of them were members of the public. We didn’t stay for the whole meeting, but apparently several people walked out.

* To Be Continued*

Posted by Fionnaigh at April 17, 2004 12:41 PM