Putiki Maori Club Visits Fiji
During a visit to Whanganui in 1963 to see his sons, Drew and Tuki, at his Alma Mater, the Wanganui Technical College, Ratu Edward Cakobau (pronounced Thakombau) was ceremonially welcomed by the Putiki Maori Club and Ngati Hau elders on Te Pakuoterangi marae at Putikiwharanui. There the Ariki of Viti (Fiji) invited the Putiki Maori Club to visit his people.
In 1965 the Club postponed its planned tour of the islands because of the hurricane in February of that year. It was felt that undue hardship would be brought upon the hosts, so with Mr Robert (Bob) Parks of Suva (liaison officer of Ratu Edward Cakobau) in attendance, the decision was made to visit Fiji in 1966.
On Saturday, 20 August, 1966, at 5.30 p.m., the Ngati Hau elders, with ceremony and prayers, farewelled the Club on Te Pakuoterangi forecourt. By 6.30 p.m. we were airborne, 28 of us, for Auckland, where we were grounded for the night. At 7 a.m. Sunday morning, by Air New Zealand, we found ourselves flying northward, 35,000 feet above the waters that our ancestors, by wooden bark, had travelled so many centuries before in a southerly direction.
In just under two and a half hours we touched Fiji soil at the International Airport, Nandi. We transferred from DC8 Air New Zealand to DC3 Air Fiji plane, and soon we were airborne again, this time for only thirtysix minutes, so to land at Nausori airport on the south east coast of Viti Levu. There we were met by a tall, handsome, regal-like figure of a man, smiling and quietly spoken, yet proudly bearing every bit of his six feet plus height.
This was our host, Ratu Edward Cakobau, the grandson of the Cakobau who ceded the Islands of Fiji (over 300) to Queen Victoria in 1874.
From that moment on, for the next ten days, we were under his chiefly and paternal care; now advising to our advantage in the peculiarities of the shopping and marketing life of Suva; now conducting us on tours per bus, taxi or launch; now teaching and informing us in the ways of his people; and now introducing us to military, civic and governmental leaders at the several receptions held in our honour.
From Nausori we embussed for a 12-mile journey to Suva, the Capital of the Fiji Islands. In the city we experienced a fast tempo similar to any in our cities, but with a difference in average temperature—76 deg. F in the Fiji winter. Here we spent five fully organised days and nights.
On our first night in Suva, with Ratu Edward Cakobau. we attended a Fijian service in the Centenary Church, which had a seating capacity of nine to ten hundred. The church was full and we learnt that this was their usual congregation, called to worship by the ancient means of striking a huge hollowed tree. From a choir of some forty to fifty voices came the richness of the involuntaries, hymns, anthems and canticles, lifting us up in this inspirational service, as it were, to Tikitikiorangi itself. It was a moving service, and we learned again and saw, that the Fijians are a profoundly religious people, that every village has its own Church, that the worshippers always carried their own Bibles and Prayer Books, and that no Fijian worked on Sunday.
We saw the biggest part of Suva in all the fascinating colours of its palms and other flora, including an exciting cruise of the Coral Reefs where we saw through a thick glass bottomed launch the myriads of coloured fish and coral, the frightening and sudden changing depths of the reefs, and the thrilling sight of a turtle swimming swiftly away into the deep caverns way below.
Each evening we were the guests of many hosts who showered on us many kindnesses,
bewildering us all. Some of our hosts were Ratu Jonai and his wonderful wife Andi Saiki, Ratu Penai and his wife Andi Laisa who presented the Club with gifts of beautiful tapa cloth and valuable prized woven wharikis. Even the Commanding Officer, an old friend of the Club, Colonel Morrison, his officers and men of the Queen Elizabeth Barracks, received and entertained us. There we saw the Military Band, resplendent in red tunics and white sulus (skirt-like attire) beating out the Tattoo with immaculate precision after which followed the Retreat. In the Club's honour Colonel Morrison had requested the Band to play our favourite hymn, Te Ariki, to the lowering of the Union Jack.
At the several receptions in Suva and others on the islands of Ovalau and Moturiki, the Club responded with the appropriate kinakis for the addresses in reply made on our behalf.
On the sixth day, Saturday, 27 August, we made a two-hour bus trip to Natovi wharf so that we saw to good measure another part of Viti Levu. By launch, for another two and a half hours, we journeyed to Ovalau, an island off the east coast of Viti Levu. There at Levuka, former capital of Fiji, and where the Deed of Cession was signed, Mr Reg Eastgate and Father Hatherly, Anglican vicar of Levuka, received our party. In no time Ratu Edward had us accommodated, some at the Royal Hotel, others at the Ovalau Club, and Mrs Paeroa Hawea and Mrs Maude Reweti guests of Mr Reg and Mrs Dot Eastgate.
In the evening the Royal Hotel was packed with people to honour and receive the Putiki Maori Club. It was a terrific night. Next day we attended early morning services so that the rest of the day was in part spent with Ratu Edward, who gave us an insight into the history and traditions of the Fiji people, the acts of Captain Bligh and his master seamanship, the exploits of his grandfather Cakobau, the geography of his island, and the fate of the Joyita, whose wreck we could see. From where we stood, the site where the Deed of Cession of Fiji was signed, the Ceremonial Mbure (Meeting House) was pointed out to us, standing immediately opposite this historic site.
Our opportunity to meet the people in their villages and homes came when Ratu Edward took us to Mbureta and Lovoni. At the former village we were formally welcomed with all the solemnity of the ceremonies and ritual associated with the rites of the Yanggona (species of the N.Z. kawakawa) root drink, and the presentation
Women of Mbureta village entertain with a standing meke on the rara after the formal Yanggona ceremony
The Tabua is to the Fijian as the Mauri is to the Maori. It is the material symbol of the hidden principle protecting vitality, the very life principle of the man himself, of his lands, of his forests and rivers and seas from whence he derives sustenance, his life and being. We found that the taste of the Yanggona is one to be acquired, something like the water of boiled dock root, not bitter like the flax water.
At Lovoni the reception was less formal for the people had sustained a death in their village. After the welcome we retired to an Mbure where a Magiti (hakari) was ready for us. There we ate fresh-water koura, taro, kumara, tapioca, lobster, pikopiko (fern fronds), karengo, pork and several other foods which were all wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a hangi. Then we returned to prepare for the important function that was to take place in the Council House of Ovalau, the Ceremonial Mbure.
This evening was important because it was our opportunity to make our presentations to the people of Fiji and to Ratu Edward. Mr
Reg Eastgate, the President of the Ovalau Men's Club, and members, received and entertained us, and then we moved to the Ceremonial Mbure after having first changed into our full ceremonial habit. At the gateway to the Mbure, the man skilled in the use of the Taiaha, Tamahina Tinirau, of Hiruharama, Whanganui River, after his display, led our party to the Mbure threshold. Our kuia Hera Paranetana, signalled to the host people, with the chanting maioha, that we were about to enter their House of Sacred Ceremony. Our people, now inside, seated themselves on the beautiful wharikis. Guided by Aotea ‘kawa’, our elder Ngene Takarangi addressed the tangata-whenua, and Mrs Paeroa Hawea led our party in a kinaki for the address delivered. Two further addresses were given from our side each followed by a ‘wai’. Mrs Paeroa Hawea, flanked on either side by Mr Wiremu Taiaroa, President of the Putiki Maori Club, and Canon Taepa, each carrying a Koha, set them at the feet of the Honourable Ratu Edward Cakobau. The Ratu replied in a moving, deliberate and eloquent measure accepting the tauira takapau provided by Mrs Hawea and the gifts placed upon it. The formal programme concluded, the visitors partook of the Magiti (hakari) set in generous and buffet style. Later, the men and women of the tangata-whenua further entertained us on their Rara (marae), performing standing mekes.
During the week we were shown over the three-year-old freezing factory founded by the Japanese firm called the Pacific Fishing Company.
Wednesday morning our Rangitira, Ratu Edward Cakobau bade leave of us, this Ratu who had cancelled all his official commitments, that we be his personal responsibility. As Molly Widdowson, daughter of Dr H. L. and Mrs Widdowson, said, ‘I was amazed that a man of his dignified rank should do all this for us and his people.’
Standing astride the prow of his twentieth century Waka, he waved to us for nearly forty minutes, until he disappeared behind the island on his way back to Viti Levu.
Next day found us at Nathelendamu boarding two outboard punts to take us to another island called Moturiki (small island). There on the beautiful marae of Nasesara we were received formally, again with the ceremonies of the Yanggona and Tabua, the Magiti, the mekes standing and sitting. The standing meke was performed by 36 of their younger men, of magnificent physique, all six feet tall plus, performing their club (weapon) haka with precision, dignity and vigour, ‘tau ana te wehi’ (inspiring). They were all ceremonially attired down to the anklets and wrist bands of Fijian handcraft, their waist-bands of eighteen-inch wide tapa cloth, and bodies covered all over with coconut oil, this being part of their uniform. Their faces too were peculiarly painted in an ash-black colour.
It was there where we saw the authority of the chief and elders. It was there also, in their church, when their Pastor, a Fijian, made his sad, parting appeal of us, ‘When you return to your homes, please do not talk bad of us.’ We wondered, and we are still asking, what had those visitors before us said about these people. We could find no reason at all for any adverse reports about the people of Fiji, a people loyal to God, Queen and Country.
We met in Suva twenty Maori women, all I suppose in their late sixties, of Tuhourangi, Te Rorooterangi, Uenukukopako, Whakaue, Pikiao and Tapuika tribes, who had visited the several islands of the Pacific in a three-week tour. All remarked that their visit to Fiji was the climax of their trip, that the people were absolutely wonderful.
What was there for us to complain about? We had learnt so much from these people; that they had the answer to delinquency in the authority of their chiefs and elders; that they are a deeply religious people; and as we say. ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’, so we found the people to be—their villages, their homes and manners, their preparation of food, and
their washing—not persil white, but Fiji whiter. One of our party commented, ‘It wasn't until I got to Moturiki, that I collided with a fly.’
It was said of these people before we left New Zealand, that they are ‘a poor people’. This is true from our New Zealand standard of life, in perhaps the luxuries we enjoy, but from their own standards, we who made that visit would say unanimously, they are the richer by far. They still retain 90 per cent of their land (toitu te whenua), they have their fishing rights, they have fresh food in abundance from papatuanuku, tangaroa, and tane mahuta. They are a happy people, of beautiful physique, tall and muscular, with a culture yet unspoiled.
We returned, very sad to leave Moturiki and Ovalau islands, to Suva en route to Nandi. At Beachcomber Hotel we rested the night. Next day we embussed for Skylodge Hotel, Nandi. All along that 100-mile journey we were still impressed by the neat, clean villages we saw. At Skylodge Hotel we entertained the manager, Tuki, the son of Ratu Edward Cakobau.
Next day we were home in Whanganui, royally welcomed by our people at Putikiwharanui. So closed a memorable experience of a marvellous trip.
The club members pay tribute to Mrs Rei, their secretary, for the wonderful work she did in organising the trip from this end. It entailed a tremendous amount of work.
Ngaruawahia Kindergarten Maori Mothers' Club
At a committee meeting of the Ngaruawahia Free Kindergarten Mothers' Club last year, the conversation went this way:—
‘What kind of entertainment shall we have for our birthday night?’
‘Perhaps some of us Maori mothers could entertain.’
From this small beginning, and an initial meeting of six mothers, the group snowballed, until now there are 15 performers (one a pakeha), a guitarist, a manager and director. Since July 1966, the group has raised over £200 for their kindergarten, by performing at birthdays, Church and public socials etc. There is no set fee. Instead, those entertained give a donation to the kindergarten.
The group practises for two hours each week and training has been given by Revd Napi Waaka, and the Club's director, Mrs Mata Clark. Most of the women take to the practices their families of three or four children, and already many have learned as much as their parents.
Members have made their own costumes, and are now learning to weave their own tanikos.
These Ngaruawahia mothers hope that their experience will inspire others to support their local educational activities and at the same time help to keep alive Maori songs and dances.
Dances of the Pacific Organisation
It was most interesting to meet Mrs Marjorie Bronson of Walnut Creek, California, U.S.A., and hear of the active ‘Polynesian Dance’ group which had recently staged its sixth annual production in Polynesian dance and music.
When her husband was stationed in Hawaii for several years from 1939, Mrs Bronson became interested in ancient hula chants and dances. On her return to California, she found her neighbours were keen to learn. Eight years ago she began at Walnut Creek Recreation Center with one class for women and children in Hawaiian Dance. There are now five hula classes for women and six for children, classes for women and children in Tahitian dance and a boys' and a ‘couples’ class' in Polynesian Dance. The ‘couples’ class' (12 couples) has performed Maori action songs and poi dances so well, that interest has spread to a ladies' class.
One of the teachers, Marguerite Hunkin, learned several dances and the long poi from Guide Rangi during a trip to New Zealand in 1959, and in 1961 Mrs Bronson learned some hakas in Laie. The biggest problem for the Americans is the correct pronunciation of the Maori language, but Hawaiians, Tahitians and Filipinos in the group learn to pronounce the words more easily than the others. Recordings and scripts are used when new songs are learnt.
The women have woven bodices and headpieces following traditional Maori patterns, but because of the high cost of piupius have found a substitue. Pieces of black and white bamboo from bamboo curtains or room dividers can be strung to make Maori patterns, and the swishing of the skirt is similar to the piupiu. Mrs Bronson always borrows a genuine piupiu from the New Zealand Consulate for the group's annual production.
Dances of the Pacific Organisation is nonprofit, and is co-sponsored by the Walnut Creek Park and Recreation Center, whose director Ruth Wallis has encouraged the group's development. The Walnut Creek City Council has also been a staunch supporter of the organisation.