The flickering candles in their brightly coloured containers delineated the path and the extremities of the stone circle beyond as the ferocity of the blazing fire in the centre attracted us to its life-giving heat. The freezing cold wind gusts sent a shower of red star-like sparks shooting forth with each fresh gust and forced those assembled to gather in an upwind semicircle. The children unashamedly sought shelter in front of the wind-breaking bulk of the blanket wrapped adults like fledglings in an Antarctic rookery.
The combined voices of the Didgeridoo, rhythm sticks and conch shell resonated around us and we were transported to more primitive times of celebration of this our Maori New Year. Some stood with eyes closed and swayed slightly to the undulations of sound or it could simply have been the wind that buffeted them with each fresh assault. Manu’s voice called confidently to the directional Atua in a cadence of Karakia as old as time itself. Charred potatoes are ceremoniously planted in the four corners of the earth garden as offerings by the children.
As the pre-dawn sky lightens the time comes for those assembled to seek the warmth, hot food and camaraderie of the brightly lit and reassuringly warm building. The Korowai from Te Kokonga Pouri Highbury Weavers stand proud sentinel to the circle of chairs and cushions set ready for us to plonk and nestle in to share our Matariki Feast. Someone commented that the Who’s Who of the Manawatu are present but I know them only as those who have contributed to our success. I notice proudly and with affection that friends and patrons from the previous evening have returned to complete the ritual.
The Kaimahi and the Manuhiri are interchangeable and indistinguishable in a blur of whanau and all perform their roles to perfection. Time, food and accoutrements have been donated with love and generosity by Te Manawa, the Highbury Social Club, PassionArt and Tomo from the Friends of the Library making this a memorable and ultimately repeatable occasion. Those who need to be thanked and appreciated know without a doubt that they are.
Te Pātikitiki is once again replete with the abundance that its name encompasses and definitely not for the last time. We started in the pre-dawn lightening and finished when it was over. Should any of you be lucky enough to experience it yourselves in the future, you will understand…