Festival challenge but awesome experience

I love Te Matatini, I love everything about it; the mobilisation in the lead-up to the festival, the atmosphere, the food, the fashion, and for one week, a total immersion in Maori culture.  As the host tribe, Ngati Kahungunu has really stepped to the fore and at an auspicious time like this, we revert to the persona of our eponymous ancestor, the man Kahungunu himself.  Kahungunu the generous, Kahungunu the shrewd, Kahungunu the handsome chief we all descend from.

Certainly in my lifetime there have been many times where I have been proud to be Ngati Kahungunu, and while on the whole I am proud to belong to a great tribe, this month has to be the most special so far.

It is an honour to host Te Matatini, yet it is also a burden that could magnify or diminish tribal mana dependant on how other tribes perceive Ngati Kahungunu’s ability to host the thousands of people who come to see the greatest kapa haka show in the world.  Ngati Kahungunu and indeed all of Hawke’s Bay can be proud for what has been collaboratively achieved together.

The festival started with the traditional pohiri and the gathering of Ngati Kahungunu from Wairarapa to the south and Wairoa to the north.  Our people united to show a force that represents us all.  Starting with the sounding of the pukaea (trumpet) in a greeting to the four winds the pohiri commenced with the great welcome haka booming out the names of the eponymous ancestors Tamatea, Rongokako, Kahungunu and of course that great waka that connects us all, Takitimu!  These are not just words that we yell out, however are affirmations of who we are as a people, and a signal to those who have arrived that they are in a new territory and we are the tangata whenua.

Following the haka pohiri, speeches of welcome were given from Piri Prentice on behalf of the people of Napier, followed by Sir Pita Sharples on behalf of Ngati Kahungunu.  The speaking rod was then handed to the visitors who had thirteen speakers representing their various regions.

The culmination of this hullabaloo is the sharing of kai, and this is where the logistical prowess of our people is at its height.  Food is what underpins hospitality and it is noticeable that the pakeha people of Hawke’s Bay have shown there support and generosity through the contrition of tonnes of fresh produce, poultry and meat and thousands of tubs of Rush Munro’s Ice Cream.  Kahungunu divers have been active all along the coast of Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa collecting seafood in its many forms.

There have been mountains of corn, apples, pumpkins, onions and potatoes stored away and distributed to all marae around Hawkes Bay who are hosting kapa haka teams and as a whole region we have shown that we can feed the hearts, feed the puku and feed the people, we are truly Kahungunu the generous!

While kapa haka is a performing artform, we must also acknowledge the visual artists of Kahungunu who have been beavering away in their studios preparing art to dress Kahungunu Park and also to fill our galleries with Kahungunu artworks, contributing to the wider Kahungunu story of diversity through the arts.  From flags in the street to art in the galleries, we are certainly visible here in our homeland.

Yet mana does not rest with Ngati Kahungunu alone, it is the responsibility of us all to show hospitality and respect to our visitors.  So if you are in the street this weekend and you see some of the haka teams around, give them a smile and a wave and shout out the words Haere Mai! Welcome to Hawke’s Bay!  Welcome to Ngati Kahungunu!  Tatou Tatou E!


Free apples by the binful, at the entrance to Te Matatini, courtesy of John Bostock. 


Charles Ropitini – Strategic Maori Advisor, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 25 February 2017


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