A NEW VISION
FOR THE NEW WORLD
Following a dinner for 200 guests last October, and a public meeting early in December sponsored by the Otara Maori Tribal Committee, a ‘steering committee’ to commence the big project of a Maori, Pakeha and Island marae was formed.
This project is the idea of the Otara Maori Committee whose president is Mr Rangi Kiro, and secretary Mr Richard Kake, both of Otara. The original aim was the provision of a marae for the Otara area to cater for the growing population and provide a recreational and cultural centre of learning for the great number of Maori children, youth and parents who have migrated to Auckland and are, because of employment and our twentieth century, living virtually divorced from the home maraes throughout New Zealand.
This project when presented met with such enthusiasm that it quickly snowballed beyond the first plans, and it was decided to make it a multi-racial centre, inviting Islanders and Pakehas to participate, co-operate and take an active interest, and to extend the boundary to include the whole of Manukau district.
It is too early yet to say with any accuracy just how it will be, but a modern marae is planned, with a Whare Runanga being representative of all the major canoes, and with facilities for tangis, huis, weddings, recreation, culture and the learning of arts and crafts.
The late John Waititi, used the word ‘marae’ in his text books, Rangitahi I and II, as a ‘plaza or courtyard’, a word used in this sense by both Maori and Pakeha, yet in the deeper sense, the traditional sense of time past, still held too by many present-day elders, as something more than just a courtyard but ‘tapu’ in veneration for the now most important rite, the tangi. This is true, and when a person
imbued with tribal pride or a person of notity passes away—then no distance is too great to travel to the ancestral marae and burial ground. However, Auckland is frought with a problem which is of growing concern to Maori and Pakeha alike—the tangi held in the back yard of a State Advances home in Otara, ‘pepper-potted’ in a European community, on State Advances ground, traditional Tainui territory, with the deceased often buried in a foreign field. This is not an isolated incident but a frequent one. The tangi is overcrowded, inconvenient to all concerned, and loses some of the essential mana of the marae. With the growing pace of Auckland, which at present has the largest concentration of Maori people in New Zealand, it is not always convenient to travel to the now often vacant home marae. One gentleman I met at the December meeting, one of the leaders of a North Auckland tribe, has all his people residing in the Auckland area.
The number of Maori and Polynesian children is increasing in both primary and secondary schools. Apart from the isolated home training and those fortunately able to travel to home maraes, especially the excellent marae at Mangere, the greater number have no cultural centre or a ‘home away from home’. Here then lies the challenge to all Maori people, elders in particular—what about the children and youth of today? Traditionally their cultural centre would be the home marae. The twentieth century and its ever increasing growth frustrates this almost to the point of imposibility. Why then should they be deprived? In my opinion, sacrifice of tradition in one or two directions would be far wiser than total loss in the next generation.
Youth today is a continual problem for parents. TV, pictures, hotels and being on the streets after work with time to kill only too frequently engender trouble and friction with the law. Maori youth has no place to go, has nowhere to learn his traditions, or even to practice a waiata, haka, poi, carve or weave, or hold his weddings and huis in the setting of a marae. This then is why Otara, a major suburb of Auckland with the projected population of 200,000 by the year 2,000, only 33 years away—another generation—needs now your support, for it is your guidance, counsel and wisdom given to your children and people who now reside in Auckland, Otara and Manukau, that will help and encourage this scheme for the mutual benefit of all.
Primary schools in Otara have an average of just over 50 per cent of Maori and Polynesian children on their rolls. Even Pakeha teachers with their limited knowledge who have Maoritanga at heart, are passing on and reviving the arts and crafts, carving, kowhaiwhai, tukutuku and waiata. This honest endeavour by teachers in their restricted time of class curriculum, could be greatly expanded and improved by the establishment of this marae. This then is yet another part of the challenge accepted by the Otara Maori Committee to supply that long-awaited need—‘a home away from home’—a Maori - Polynesian - Pakeha marae.
An estimate of £12,000 as an initial financial objective has been set. Therefore, there will be a lot of work, many back-breaking tasks and much sweat and tears. There will be criticisms, discouragement and many problems. However, the project has been launched, an accountant and a solicitor have been appointed, giving status and impetus to the project. An architect's plan has been tabled to stimulate thought. To date, the scheme has the blessing of the Manukau City Council, the Mayor of Manukau, Mr Lambie (President elect of the Steering Committee), the Mayor of Otahuhu, Mr Beddingfield, Mr Phil Amos, M.P. for Manukau, Social and Welfare workers, religious leaders and many leaders in the educational field. What it needs now is your help and constructive criticism, advice and suggestions, and above all your earnest striving for peace, goodwill and unity.
Maoridom today realises that it must move with the times, as is evidenced by the infusion of modern life in education, employment and occupations, housing and clothing, etc. and in the use of modern materials in the construction of modern maraes—glass windows, locks for doors and fittings, roofing iron, paint and varnish, concrete and electricity. The newly formed Ngati Otara have caught a yet wider vision in this project, which is believed to be the first of its kind in New Zealand by planning to provide for the traditional needs of a multi-tribal and multi-racial urban community.
Your correspondence offering suggestions and advice would be appreciated.
Kia Ora ra koutou katoa.
Ike A. Amos,
5 Daphne Avenue.