by MICHAEL OTTO
A visit to a marae in south Auckland was the culmination of a series of events organised by Te Ngakau Waiora Mercy Spirituality Centre, focusing on Maori culture.
On July 18, Otara parish pastoral assistant Manuel Beazley spoke to visitors inside the Te Wai Ariki whare at Whaiora Marae, which is behind St John the Evangelist Church.
In a wide-ranging presentation, Mr Beazley covered the marae’s history, its range of carving styles and the changing role of marae in Maori culture, as well as protocols and practices.
He encouraged the visitors to touch the carvings and woven panels in the Te Wai Ariki whare.
In doing so “your touch gets embedded into the building”, he told the visitors.
Mr Beazley paid special attention to the two figures on central poles in the building.
One was Te Wherowhero, the first Maori king, who was a Tainui chief. The second was Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier, whose carving was clothed in the purple of a bishop.
In fact, some Maori refer to Bishop Pompallier as “Te Papura — the purple one”, Mr Beazley said.
These two great figures, ancestors of the local people and the faith, “hold the house up”, he added.
Te Ngakau Waiora Mercy Spirituality Centre manager Beate Matthies said the overall theme for the centre’s 2015 programme is “roots”.
Maori customs were explored in a number of events within this theme: Flax weaving, with Marama Piripi; Introduction to Maori Cultural Practices, with Pani Chamberlain; Legends around Matariki, with Beate Matthies and Akuhata Rangi; The True Vine — The Picture of the Catholic Church first preached to Maori, by Fr Merv Duffy, SM; “Toko Pehepa, I Belong”, by Manuel Beazley and the marae visit.
Ms Matthies said the events have been “looking at origins and the significance in one’s own life and for a better understanding of one another”.
She noted that it was after a request by Maori women that nine Sisters of Mercy left their homes in Ireland and travelled to New Zealand in the 19th century. During their nine-month-long trip to New Zealand, those sisters were taught the Maori language by Bishop Pompallier, she said.
So they were able to communicate in Te Reo Maori when they arrived in Auckland.