AFTERTHOUGHTS ON A HUI TOPU
WELL, ANOTHER HUI TOPU is over. There seems to be general agreement that the 1960 Hui at Rotorua was, in some ways, bigger brighter and better than ever. There's no doubt that these Hui Topu gatherings are growing.
Originally, I believe, the Hui Topu was purely a diocesan function, a Synod gathering of clergy, synodsmen, elders of the constituent parishes, and their families. I remember that the third Hui Topu, held at Ruatoria in 1955, was regarded as having a record attendance with something like a thousand people. Each succeeding year has seen the numbers grow. Wairoa, Ruatioki and Whangara saw more and larger visiting parties from the sister dioceses of Wellington and Waikato. At Omahu, in 1959, a small delegation from Auckland attended for what I believe was the first time. This was, as it were, an exploratory visit. It bore fruit this year in the attendance of a large party from Auckland and North Auckland.
This continued growth has given rise to two opposing schools of thought. There are those who think the Hui is becoming too big, too unwieldy, too costly and too difficult to organise and control.
On the other hand there are those who welcome this growth, year after year, as a healthy sign. These people see, as a logical development of this growth, a gathering so important and valuable to clergy and laity alike of the Maori Anglican Church that it should no longer be the affair of one diocese, under the bishop of that diocese, but should be planned on a yet larger scale to include
every. Maori parish throughout the land, under the aegis of the Bishop of Aotearoa.
I have heard sufficient hearty discussion of both views as to be convinced that sooner or later they will come into healthy conflict. The issue, I think, will become a matter of Hui Topu politics and will be discussed, not only in Synod, but in the largest arena of the Hui itself within the next year or two.
Now let me make it clear, at once, that I realise that this must be a matter for decision within the Maori church itself. I hope, however, that my Maori friends will not mind if I offer a few thoughts on the subject for I have attended these functions with great interest for several years.
I am one who has watched this annually growing attendance with some satisfaction and approval. I think it was at Whangara that I heard the first talk of the Hui “becoming too large”, and “getting out of hand”, but it was not until the following year, at Omahu, that anything concrete was done about it. During the Synod discussions at the Omahu hui a proposal was made that a special committee should be set up to plan and control the future Hui Topus. It was felt by the mover of this motion that the gathering had grown to such a size that it made it difficult for any parish, especially a small one, to undertake the financing, the organisation of food, the provision of transport and above all the finding, or the erection, of buildings large enough for the purposes of the Hui. An instance was made of the erection, at Omahu, of a special building, used both as a dining hall and a concert hall, at a cost of several thousand pounds.
This suggestion to take the control and organisation of the hui out of the hands of the host parish and put it under the control of a special committee did not meet with much favour, especially among the elders. In the end the proposal was withdrawn without even going to the vote. But though no action was taken on this occasion I have since heard many discussions which show that there are many people who would like to see the hui kept small enough to be organised within parish, or at least diocesan, limits.
The objections to the larger Hui Topu are not all on the ground of practical difficulties such as finance, accommodation or transport. I have listened to many who sincerely fear that the religious and spiritual purposes of the Hui Topu are being lost sight of or are being overshadowed by the competitions and secular activities. I myself do not think this is so. As long as the competitions are rewarded by mana only and not by material prizes I cannot see them being anything but for good. In fact the steady rise in the standard of both choral and Maori cultural items through the years has been remarkable. From this point of view the extension of the Hui Topu to an inter-diocese status would offer several advantages. One is that it would enable teams from all parishes to enter as competitors whereas now they are appearing as guest artists only.
The growth in six years from the one thousand which attended the Ruatoria Hui Topu to the over five thousand which attended the 1960 Hui at Rotorua is, I think, the answer to the question. You do not get so much growth unless there is a need for it and the reason for the need is not far to seek.
If there is one present attribute or characteristic of the Maori people which, more than any other, is a part of what is so often referred to as Maoritanga, it is their instinct to live as a community and a people and for that community and people.
It would, I think, be possible to retain a Maoritanga without arts and crafts, without a knowledge of whakapapa and tribal history, without perhaps even the language. It would be sad to think of any of these things as passing away, but it must be sadly admitted that as far as many young people are concerned they are none the less vanishing. But this instinct to gather together, to work together and to cling communally to their Maori identity seems to me to becoming stronger, and not weaker, with the passing of years.
The late Dr Maharaia Winiata once described the Maori pattern of life, as it affected his pakeha fellow citizens, as a pattern of co-mingling and withdrawal. By that he meant that the Maori of today is being forced by educational, economic and social circumstances into closer and closer association with the pakeha. Following his instinct he withdrew, every now and then, into his own Maori world to refresh, as it were, the springs of his Maoritanga.
In the past he withdrew to his marae. Today the marae is not always there to withdraw to. In country communities it is true the marae still plays an important part in community life, but for the overwhelming majority of those who are being increasingly drawn into the towns and cities there is no marae available. It has been estimated that from seventy to eighty per cent. of young Maoris who leave country schools finish up in the cities. the trend towards better housing sends them to new housing centres where they become Maori islands in surrounding pakeha neighbourhoods. At work, at home and at school they mix more and more with the pakeha. During the years I have been going to the Hui Topu I have seen many children pass into adolescence and many adolescents grow into young manhood and womanhood. Many of them, from the towns and cities, have told me that the only time they attend a hui, and certainly the only time they sleep in wharepunis, is at the Hui Topu.
The Hui Topu affords, each year, a marae gathering on the highest plane. Because its purpose is first and foremost a spiritual one it makes an appeal much wider than is possible on any other occasion. All human beings, irrespective of race, are subject to spiritual hungers. This is especially so of the Maori, and in addition he has his tribal and racial hungers all of which are
offered satisfaction at the Hui Topu.
I have noticed that not all those who attend the Hui Topu are necessarily members of the Maori Anglican Church. There have been occasions, notably at Omahu last year, when the success of the hui has been contributed to by members of another church. This is one of the strengths of the Hui Topu.
There have been increasing signs, especially during the past few years, of a common desire among most sections of the Maori people to draw themselves into closer communion as one people. Their thinking is passing from tribal thinking to national thinking. It was this feeling which first gave rise to the conception of kotahitanga nearly a hundred years ago. It is true that the word has since developed meaning, of drawing separated units into a united whole, is probably stronger today among thinking Maori than ever.
It is this impulse, I think, which is to some extent behind the growth, year after year, of attendance at the Hui Topu. This is not to overlook, in any way, the religious and spiritual aspect of those gatherings. It is because the larger the attendance, the greater is the unifying value of it, that I am one of those who would like to see this growth continue.
I do not see how the Hui Topu can be made to revert to smaller and more manageable forms without losing this great uniting character. Obviously, if the function is to be contained within one diocese, then similar functions will need to be inaugurated in the other diocese. I may be wrong, but I think that to divide one great function into four smaller ones would be a backward step.
I hope it will not be taken as a criticism of the very well organised and successful Hui at Rotorua if I mention one thing I thought lacking. That was a central and communal marae. Though the arrangements were almost perfect for all other needs it seemed to me that there was lacking that opportunity for casual meetings, for leisurely gettogethers and for intimate korero, which has been so marked a feature in the past. It would be fatal to forget that the greatest needs of all people are for the things of the soul, the spirit and the heart, and not those of the intellect and the physical.
There is one other thing I would like to mention in these after-thoughts on many hui topus. During the six years I have been attending them I have seen the great opportunity they afford for work among the young people. Many admirable attempts have been made to profit from the opportunity the occasion affords. As yet they have been experimental and, I think, only partly successful. A good deal of thinking and planning is still needed for the future. I know that many young people who attend the Hui find it their only integration with the work and practice of the Maori Anglican Church. Every elder knows the great need of young people for more and more attention and guidance in this difficult and bewildering world. The Hui Topu affords a field of work which can be approached by no other that I can think of.
I know that young people I have spoken to have enjoyed their youth contacts at Hui Topu and it could very well become a means of bringing them into closer association with the work of parishes and youth clubs.
Now, let me close by saying that I know only too well that any pakeha, however well-intentioned, can look at Maori matters only as an outsider ‘looking in’. None the less I cannot help but think that the annual Hui Topu gathering is only at the beginning of its potential importance and that much care and thought deserves to be given to its future. I trust, therefore, that these ‘after-thoughts’ will be accepted by my Maori friends as a sincere desire to be helpful to an institution which I respect and admire more with each year's experience of it.
A unique relationship exists between the people of Taranaki and their museum, according to the Curator of the Canterbury Museum, Dr Roger Duff, who spent some days at New Plymouth some weeks ago to advise on the setting out of the museum. “I don't know of any other district in which people are looking forward so much to help build up a museum collection,” he said, and he remarked on the number of people who had presented artifacts to the museum. Asked why people were so anxious to give artifacts, Dr Duff gave two reasons: first, the lack of profit motive and second, the standard of the museum. “People in some places are just interested in turning things into money,” he said, “but fortunately there is very little buying and selling of Maori relics in Taranaki. Also, people know that it is going to be shown well and adequately safeguarded,” he added.