SCANZ2013 Update

23 01 2013

It was my intention to publish a blog every day we were here at the SCANZ2013 residency, but it has been so busy and I have been so immersed in the residency workshops, meetings and conversations that time has slipped away.

The residency formally started on the 20th January, but many people arrived a few days earlier. People who did come earlier were encouraged to go with the group to visit Parihaka, a Māori community about 50km south of New Plymouth. These visits coincided with monthly ‘days of observance’ where on the 18th and 19th of every month, people meet at the marae (meeting place) to acknowledge the historically significant events that occurred between 1860 and 1900.

The Parihaka website states “It is still the meeting place of the peoples of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi. The 18th day of every month is still the pivotal forum of the community wherein the traditions and teachings of Parihaka are maintained. The spiritual legacy is one of living in harmony with the land and humanity. It is also a legacy of nonviolent resistance action and a belief in the peaceful and respectful co-existence of Māori and other races.”
For more information, go to http://parihaka.com/.

On the journey to Parihaka, we all learnt a song, which is now embedded in my brain forever. Here are the words:

Te Aroha
Te Whakapono
Me te rangimarie
Tātou, tātou e

The translation (hugely simplified as one word has many meanings and implications in Māori):

Love
Faith
Peace
For us all

Such beauty in meaning! As we traveled to Parihaka, Mt Taranaki loomed majestically above us, although the view was not clear as it is in this image below.
2013_0122CU

It was an experience that was humbling and overwhelming. As we proceeded into the house where the meeting was happening, we exchanged hongi (a traditional Māori greeting, where you press noses). We then sat around in a circle, where a number of people spoke and sang in Māori. I think the initial speakers were elders. Although I didn’t understand the language, I sensed that there was a lot of focus on remembering the past and its connections to now, family and some community business. At a certain point the conversation then was predominately English, and we were invited to introduce ourselves. I was very nervous, and when I announced that we were Australians, there was a bit of laughter, as my accent gave me away, lessening my nerves. I don’t wish to go into too much more detail of the meeting except to say it was a very welcoming and open environment, where although there were structures around who spoke when, everyone had a voice…

After the meeting, we all gathered in the community hall and had a delicious lunch, prepared by the community, relaxing and getting to know each other.

Here is a picture of the group, image by Ian Clothier.

SCANZ group at Parihaka

SCANZ group at Parihaka, image Ian Clothier

That evening all the artists gathered again to participate in a whakawhanaungatanga, a traditional way of introduction where we focused on three things – our identity and heritage, our impressions of Parihaka and what we wanted to achieve at SCANZ. It was a really great way to get to know each other, and draw out some interesting linkages and connections, between our identities and foci as artists.

It was an amazing day, which for me was a great introduction to SCANZ and the place and people of Taranaki. More coming soon!

I would also like to give a special thank you to Jo Tito for helping me with this post.

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