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6 September 2019
Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated Chairman Update (click on each of the pictures to expand)
I’m in Samoa where both my mother’s and father’s tipuna came from. Dad’s Tipuna were aboard the original Takitimu waka, named Te Pori a Kare, around 1500 years ago, while mum, as a 7 year old, came over on the banana boat, Maui Pomare just over 80 years ago. My mum was in the first batch of RSE workers and they both ended up in Waipatu coming together about 70 years ago - Dad living on Karamu Road and Mum on Collinge Road, literally across the paddock from each other. Because of the "across the paddock romance,” I’m sitting in my mother’s village of Tufuiopa tapping out this message to home.
Our first duty was to visit my grandmothers grave at Maiangiangi and grace it with fresh flowers , a clean wipe and a karakia, then we went to the homestead. Tufuiopa is a 10 minute walk from the centre of Apia an although it is ensconced within the urban capital it still remains defiantly Tufuiopa!! (A bit like my other metropolitan marae in Tokomaru Bay called Waima which had " WAIMA FOREVER" painted on the overhead bridge to which some wag added a" Y " and now our unique famous saying is " WAIMA FOREVERY".)
Tufuiopa hand painted signs are on gateposts, flags, banners etc so that the village identity will not disappear in the urban crush around it. There might be new sign on the main road tomorrow saying "TUFUIOPA FOREVERY"!!
Mere and I, amongst other things, are on the search for the origins of the Takitimu Waka, as we believe it was built on Upolu Island, which is where we are now. However, yesterday we were invited to a hui, then lunch with the Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielengaoi, who informed us that to his knowledge Takitimu waka was built on Savaii in a village called Patemia and that we should ferry across to see the village. This has thrown our theory backwards but being the whakapapa snoopers we are, we have two days left to unfurl this anthropological mystery...Whaaat!
Nevertheless we ask those most learned of people on this subject; taxi drivers, barmen, barmaids and two days later of excruciating and late night interviews we unravel the best recipes for margaritas, tequila sunrises and mojitos - but no leads into our ancient riddle except "you craazy? That was pefore I was efen porn." and that’s from my cousins.
Yesterday we were watching "Te Uila Festival", Samoa’s answer to Matatini - with fire dancers, coconut husking comps, slap dancing , tug a war you name it! Te Uila Festival goes for a whole week. Behind the stage in the harbour we spot Ngaualofa - the sister waka to Te Matau a Maui as part of Te Uila week. Te Uila means to tell and share stories and we do this once on board. We fizz boated out to her in the bay and met the skipper Kalolo who had been to Matahiwi where we first met him during the Matatini Waka Voyagers wananga. They promised to go out of their way to take us sailing later in the week but we didn’t want to upset their rhythm.
Back to PM Tuliepa, he says he has initiated a Polynesian Leaders Group, which has everyone except Māori and said he would pānui the next meeting so someone from Iwi Chairs could attend. Secondly, he wanted to register all our families on the national register so that we could receive information and so on. He also wanted to bestow honours on Samoans overseas who had done notable things and was working on “The Rock - Duane Johnson” to be given the highest Samoan honour. He asked me how long I’d been the Chair of Ngāti Kahungunu as he'd heard I was the longest serving elected chair of any iwi, so I changed the subject quickly to the Rugby World Cup to which he laughed and said next time you come I’ll give you a title. I told him it’s my last trip!!
He then presented us with his book of memoirs, written by another person, which jolted me to carry on with my own. I still have two and a half years. He told me to get someone else to do it because we are too busy doing day-to-day things. Hmm!!
Back to the Rock, he is the grandson of Peter Maevea from Big Time Wrestling fame along with fellow Samoan Lui Leota, Andre the giant and Mark Lewin who used to do the NZ regional wrestling circuits. Mark Lewin was married to my first cousin Junie (from Tufuiopa) so whenever he was in Hastings Mark would bring Peter Maevea and Lui Leota to meet and stay with Mum and Dad. So in a round about way we are connected to the Rock. I know- loong shot!! Lui Leota now runs the hotel complex in Savaii, which we might stay at if we visit Patemia village searching for our roots! Ok ok -longshot from a long bow but what the hell. But PM Tuilaepas wife is a Parker, sister of Joseph Parkers father or very close. When I asked what it was like being a part of the boxing royalty in Samoa he said he was lucky to get to his wedding without a black eye!
The language here is 99.9% Samoan with people breaking into English just to speak to us. Which brings home the message from Annette Sykes, "don’t just be couch revolutionaries, get up and demand your rights around Te Reo revival with massive resourcing to go with it". Or from Joe Williams "yes this is a great hui with 1000 people but you are still losing your reo faster than most. Step up or watch it die!" Or Timoti "if you can’t speak with confidence or authority, don’t whaikorero and don’t karanga - get at the back!" Thwack!! So Mere and I have tried Brownie Gloynes method of opening up and chit chatting in te reo and watching the locals eyes bug in interest! "Are you REAL Maoris? Bygod you’re speaking your lankuage" they say in their singsong style.
This morning Asovale Tuimaseve and Rowena took us hunting for breakfast at the food market, the fish market and the fruit market. We had a BIG Samoan breakfast of palusami, congo eel in hot coconut sauce, curried chicken pasties, stewed lamb flanks, steam pudding and pineapple pie with runny custard. OMG. Stop the bus!!!!
Then we went to meet with Nia and Phil Belcher’s parents (Nia makes Samoan chocolate and Phil carved Atea a Rangi poupou), about 25 minutes up the mountain and they were waiting with a huge morning tea of chinky in vermicelli, cream taro on rice and doughnuts to die for and much more. Stop the world I want to get off!!!
Anyway its only lunchtime and I have more interviews coming up soon so tofa soifua . Manuia!!