OWAIRAKA - WAHINE
Kapa Haka is a unique part of our identity as Maori ... and as New Zealanders as a whole. It’s special in the way that it encompasses whanaungatanga - belonging and connectedness. It contributes to revitalising and strengthening our Reo, tikanga, history and traditions, and holds the power of positive transformation, both individually and collectively, which drives that sense of belonging and encourages self worth, pride and well-being. Essentially, it is a cultural gateway that enriches our identity as a nation and further enhances our unique flavour on the world’s stage.
My son’s recent journey with his Kapa Haka ropu - Te Puna O Wairaka (Mt Albert Grammar) saw him shine and transform in so many ways in such a short time. I was inspired to create this artwork in recognition of our experience and of the connections made during this time. I especially wanted to acknowledge the efforts of the Kaiako and the supporters involved (namely the TPOW Whanau) during the ropu’s demanding campaign.
The following are some of the layers of meaning and personal thoughts that have gone into this taonga:** Owairaka (Mt Albert) is the Maunga,
** Wairaka is the Ancestral Wahine Toa,
** Te Puna Unuroa o Wairaka is the Long Drink of Wairaka.
** A Maunga is a symbol of the past. It is a sacred presence and beacon of hope for the future. It is seen as the closest Ancestor to the spiritual home of our Tupuna, therefore capable of touching and being part of the heavenly realm. It is both of this world and of the spiritual world.
** Papatuanuku is the womb of life who gives birth to all living things. She is the Ukaipo - the supreme nurturer and mother. Whenua (land) and Maunga are considered one in the same thing or entity.
** The pepe is an acknowledgement of the whenua (placenta) which affirms our whakapapa and links us to our turangawaewae. Burying our whenua symbolises our manifestation into the physical world as well as our devotion to Papatuanuku.
** As Owairaka is known as a volcanic cone, the pepe also represents Ruaumoko - Papatuanuku’s youngest son ... the Atua that causes the earth to shake and tremble.
** On a spiritual level, the pepe is a symbol of life continuance, and of whakapapa ... of all forms.
** The young Wahine emerges from the whenua of Wairaka. Like the Maunga, she and the whenua are one in the same - physically and spiritually. Her stance is staunch expressing an attitude of strength, pride and resilience. She looks ahead to the future carrying with her the weight of those who have gone before her. There is a sense of knowing and an air of confidence ... of being capable of achieving goals in this ever changing and blended environment. The poutama pattern supports this idea - emphasising attainment and advancement ... a sense of moving forward with purpose. As Maori, we will forever hold fragments of a painful past ... of broken hearts and broken people, but each generation contributes to the building blocks of cultural revitalisation. When I think about this Rangatahi Wahine, its as though she represents the accumulation of the pain, sweat and tears up until now - but in turn adding her own contribution to the building blocks of tomorrow. In a sense, Kapa Haka is like the mortar that helps bind these blocks together. It is a driver and medium that uplifts our cultural heritage.
** Tupuna (Ancestors) are important in a Maori world. They are with us always in Spirit ... especially when we are singing our Maori songs - we are virtually calling to them in the Spirit world. When I’m watching a ropu perform, I envision Tupuna beside, in front, behind and above each person. It’s like a visual morphing of the past and present.
** I believe whakapapa is a true gift that links us to the beginning of creation. It’s an eternal thread that binds us to the past, present and future. That's why Tupuna feature hugely in much of my mahi. Acknowledging those who came before us is important because they contribute to making us who we are today.
** Acknowledging our Atua Tupuna is also vital in keeping our stories, history and traditions alive. Here I also pay homage to Hine-nui-te-po who is represented by the black space. She is the mother of the resting place ... the great woman of the night and ruler of the Underworld of Spirits. Hine-te-iwaiwa is also represented here with the presence of the moon. She is the heavenly principal that governs over childbirth and the art of weaving. Both Atua Wahine emphasise and reinforce the concept of mother-nurturer and female power potential ... every wahine inherits these aspects the moment she is born.
** The stars of Matariki are culturally fundamental possessing universal principles such as connectedness and remembrance. Their appearance is a constant reminder of who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going - because we are all star people descended from the heavens themselves ... to eventually return to this place, our spiritual home, when our time on earth is over.
** The lone star is either (or both depending how you view it) Kopu or Puanga. Kopu is the tohu ata, the sign of dawn, who projects feminine energies while watching over the skies of all mankind. Puanga is the precursor and tohu of Matariki who delivers abundance in the form of the autumn rains which replenish and recharge the whenua below.
** A plume of Raukura sits in the hair bringing attention to the connection between the physical and spiritual realms - they are firmly fixed to the hair (to the physical) while also positioned in the heavens (the spiritual), glowing like a cluster of shinning stars above. These feathers symbolise faith, hope and compassion, which transcends from a higher spiritual plane manifesting itself physically through the expression of collective harmony and unity.
** Pounamu is considered the Atua stone empowered with its own mana and tapu, containing within itself the essence of our Tupuna. The greenstone heart also talks about the heart chakra - emphasising beauty, love and compassion. This symbol is a reminder that Wahine hold the life force energy within them that can project healing qualities and the abilities to channel into universal connectedness as a whole.