A Maori welcome for students

Students being taught how to make poi. Photo: Supplied
Students being taught how to make poi. Photo: Supplied

Nineteen students from the NZ Radio Training School stayed overnight at Te Tahawai Marae this week.

Never heard of it? Located on the grounds of Edgewater College in Pakuranga, Auckland, sits a small and very intimate marae. Built by a team of Maori and Edgewater College staff in 1984 (to its completion in 1996), the pan-tribal meeting place has since become the home and a draw card for many an occasion: tangi, family reunions, and school trips.

The main idea I got from this trip was to connect with a culture that we don’t necessarily pay enough attention to.

The experience was very traditional. But the marae protocols are so easy to follow, I just see them as something courteous. Take your shoes off before you come inside, help prepare the hangi, boys outside setting up the pit; girls inside helping with the food, do the dishes when you’ve finished eating. In hindsight, the rules are very simple.

It was also good to see my classmates engaging in the activities; some had never even been to a marae before. I never thought I’d see myself ever making a poi (even though it took me about 20 minutes more than everyone else to nail it), and then using it in a waiata or a song – but I still did it!

The things I learned about myself and about everyone else, including our much more open tutors, were eye-opening. Coming from a Maori background, I was surprised at how much I didn’t know. I felt like this trip presented new ideas, and inspired not only me, but my peers, to learn more about the Maori culture and customs. I felt like I had finally reconnected with something I can only describe as special.

If there is one thing I’d like to say about this trip it is that no one should feel intimidated visiting such a sacred place as a marae. In a nutshell: it was one of the most humbling experiences I have had so far.

A selection of images taken during the marae visit:

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Stevee-Jayde Arkell
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