Call for community to gather for powhiri

Araiteuru Marae manager Tania Williams sounds the putatara — a traditional Maori instrument made...
Araiteuru Marae manager Tania Williams sounds the putatara — a traditional Maori instrument made from a giant conch shell, representing the physical and spiritual call for the Dunedin community to gather for Saturday's community engagement powhiri at the Shetland St marae. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
Bringing Dunedin’s diverse communities together to experience the warmth and welcome of tikanga Maori is at the heart of a very special gathering this weekend.

Continuing a tradition that has built up over several years, the Araiteuru Marae community engagement powhiri on Saturday will welcome and introduce newcomers to New Zealand to the marae experience.

Araiteuru Marae manager Tania Williams has an invitation and a challenge for the wider community as well — it is time that everyone experienced the essence of marae.

"If you were born and have lived in New Zealand, and have not experienced a marae, you need to come and discover the beauty of Te Au Maori [the Maori world]," Ms Williams said.

Born from the need to provide a space to welcome new arrivals to Dunedin and New Zealand, the Araiteuru Marae community engagement powhiri has evolved over the years to include a broad range of groups, including Red Cross, the Refugee Steering Group, and Dunedin’s Al Huda Mosque.

Red Cross Otago humanitarian engagement manager Steve King said previous powhiri were held for new migrants, both former refugees and others.

In 2019, in the immediate aftermath of the Christchurch mosque attacks, a powhiri planned for Race Relations Week became instead an opportunity for prayer and healing.

In 2020, with border restrictions and severely reduced migration due to Covid-19, the powhiri would be a unique way for returning expats to enjoy a traditional welcome home, Mr King said.

"It is a special experience and is part of building connections among our communities," he said.

Ms Williams said that about 10 groups were working together to organise Saturday’s event as a celebration of human diversity, in words and song.

Along with experiencing a true Maori welcome, visitors to Araiteuru Marae on Saturday will also enjoy a hangi and traditional Kiwi games, along with planned and impromptu performances.

Ms Williams said the event would also include a special tree-planting in honour of the late Kee Young who, along with his wife, Sanny, had been much involved in the city’s cultural life.

Preparations for the powhiri will start tonight with a chance to practise waiata, and the work of preparing food for the hangi and setting up the hall would be done from 3pm on Friday. Volunteers are welcome to join in and help with the preparations.

On Saturday morning, visitors are asked to arrive at the Araiteuru Marae car park from 10.30-10.45am, ready to be called on to the marae at 11am.

People who wish to share a performance during Saturday’s powhiri are invited to reach out via email to

araiteuru.marae@xtra.co.nz

or otago@redcross.org.nz.

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