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Waitangi Day – Evening celebrations

Dinner was ready by 6.30pm and all the tables were nicely decked out with white tablecloths and decorations. The army provided us with a feast and after dinner there was a group of young Maoris who performed a song and did a haka. It was very enjoyable to watch and no matter how many times I see a haka done, I’ll never tire of it. Especially if you’re sitting right in front of them. The energy of it resonates in my veins.

Later on in the evening, Anne-Wiebe, Jacob and Patrick did a haka and Anne-Wiebe said a few words in Dutch. He then translated it into English, which was basically thanking Joe, Robert and a few other people for having them and being able to be part of the kaupapa waka. He referred to a Dutch proverb: “Uit het oog, uit het hart” which means: “ Out of sight, out of mind”. He said this wasn’t the case here though, that the people from the kaupapa waka will always be in their minds and their hearts. They presented Joe, Robert and Chappy with three paddles that were made in Holland. Little clogs were presented to the kaihautu of the ladies waka crew, stroopwafels to their kids and clogs to Joe’s sister, who was in charge of the kitchen.

Basically when you’re saying goodbye to a group, the protocol is that you say a few words of thank you, sing a waiata and do a haka. Now I would have loved to have had a waiata for them but I didn’t. But here it is now, in Irish Gaelic:

Bhí sé de phribhléid agus onóir dom bheith páirteach sa Kaupapa Waka. Mo mhíle buíochas díobh as ucht na flaithiúlachta agus na fáilte a chuir sibh romham isteach in bhur bpobal agus in bhur gcroí. Bhaineas an-thaithneamh as an eachtra. Bá chúis bróin agus uaignis dom do chomhluadar a fhágáil ach bhíos leasaíthe le caidreamh agus le deá-chuimhní na ndaoine a bhuileas leo nuair a scar mé libh. Bá mhór dom amharc i ndoimhne a fháil ar an gcultúr Maori agus ar na traidisiúin atá ag baint leis. Agus, ar ndóigh, thaitnigh sé go mór liom.

Translated it means: It was an honour and a privilege to have been part of the Kaupapa Waka. Thank you so much for your hospitality and for welcoming me, into your community, with open arms. I really enjoyed the whole experience. It was with sadness that I left your company but I also left, enriched with great memories of the people I met and the contacts I made there. It was great, for me, to get a more in-depth view of the Maori culture and its traditions and I loved it.”

After the meal, we all said we’d help with the dishes. So about fifteen people were there, drying dishes, putting them away and someone brought out a guitar and got us all singing. Then Joe’s sister, invited us around the corner, by the back of the kitchen, to have a few beers/wine. One of the rules of the kaupapa waka was that there would be no alcohol or drugs and there wasn’t. It was only on the last night, when everything was over, were we allowed to have a few drinks. That’s fair enough. I respect that and everybody stuck to that rule. So most of us had a few drinks and even some of the army guys joined us.

It was a brilliant weekend, the highlight of my trip so far. I’m so glad that I had the chance to join in on it all, even though I didn’t do a lot to contribute. Writing about it though and showing the photographs in this blog, is my contribution. For me, my interest in the Maori culture was piqued when I came back to New Zealand in 2009.

I was delighted to have had the article about the Mana Maori exhibition in Leiden published and it was even more of an honour to have been part of the kaupapa waka this weekend. I got a much more detailed view of the Maori culture and I want to know more. I would also love to be able to write more about their traditions, culture, language etc and by writing about it, it could be a way of informing people who might not know so much about the culture. Hopefully I can do that in the near future.