Being at beautiful Waitangi this year has been such a treat. The atmosphere has been totally relaxed and joyful. It made me and everyone I got chatting to feel proud to be NZ citizens.
A great deal of this sense of wellbeing can be, we all agreed, attributed to the kindly enthusiasm that emanates from our amiable Prime Minister.
There she was, with a bunch of her Cabinet colleagues, serving breakfast to the multitudes, going off with excitement for a paddle with a waka amo crew, dealing with grace and humour with her honey of a daughter, little Neve.
What’s not to like and trust?
And what a display of Maori arts and crafts! From the hospitable embrace of casual local orators speaking under the flagpole whose words and songs were greeted with delight by visitors from Japan, and answered with graceful song and dance by our kin from Samoa.
Such a warm-hearted exchange. They are such a gift Polynesians have given to the world, these – possibly unique – formalities, based on music and movement.
Maybe people throughout Europe shared such things long ago, but they seem to have disappeared from the mainstream culture.)
Market stalls combine past and present
The market stalls of individual artists and craftspeople displayed many modern adaptations of ever-living Maori art, especially in the fields of wood-carving, weaving and making body ornaments out of oddities of nature, plus clever ways of incorporating redundant objects into quaint new fashions.
For instance, I picked up a necklace of a silver 1958 threepence set in brass – a memento which celebrates my daughter’s birth date. (The artist reckoned he’d managed to rob one of the ‘old banks’.)
Being a bit too ancient and irreligious, my cousin and I missed the formal dawn ceremony which is a feature of Maori spirituality, but our experience of Waitangi Day, including seeing (only on the outside, so far) the beautiful architecture of a new museum built to house a history of the Maori contribution to European wars.
I didn’t know, but a full account of this has never been properly acknowledged in the public record. We look forward to exploring this in coming days.
In the meantime, we might be brave enough to go for dip in the ocean at Paihia, visit lovely Russell again, and go off on the Cream Trip.
Judith Bryers Holloway, of Ngati Manu (resident of Levin)