Sharing tikanga builds strong relationships
Inclusion was at the heart of an invitation to the Hawke’s Bay Multicultural Association to be formally welcomed onto Te Aranga Marae in Flaxmere in June [June 12].
On what was a beautifully sunny Saturday afternoon, Evelyn Ratima called the manuhiri onto the marae where, following the powhiri, they were free to “ask any questions you’ve ever wanted to about Māori and marae but been afraid to ask”, said organiser Des Ratima.
Having Te Aranga Marae in the rohe, a marae for peoples of “any canoe from anywhere in the world”, provided the perfect place for shared learnings that would build stronger community, said Mr Ratima.
“It’s a significant piece of the puzzle because it enables us to be inclusive in a way that isn’t possible on our traditional marae.
“Here we are each able to speak in the language with which we are most comfortable and, while we do adhere to protocol, that protocol takes into account that this marae is for people from all over the world.”
Sharing tikanga grows knowledge and understanding, he says.
“It is about making sure people don’t feel isolated. They are interested and they do want to be included, so this is the perfect way for people to be involved.”
Sukhdeep Singh, Multicultural Association Hawke’s Bay president, said many immigrants were looking for ways to connect with mana whenua, and understand Māori culture. The national Multicultural Association will be embedding Te Tiriti o Waitangi into its constitution this year, and actively encourages its member organisations to build relationships with local hapū and iwi.
The Te Aranga visit saw 140 people visit the marae. They were welcomed on with a formal powhiri, after which they had discussions and questions, and finished the day with shared dinner in the whare kai.
“Many of our members had never been to a marae before,” said Mr Singh. “It was a wonderful opportunity to learn, start to understand, and build relationships.
“As an organisation we subscribe to E Tū Whānau values, and to partnerships underpinned by the Treaty. It is a very important part of being in New Zealand.”
He said holding such events was very important. “It is a way to break down barriers and address misconceptions. Many people new to New Zealand do not know if they can go to a marae, or how to arrange a visit. And they are worried that they may not know what to do.
“We are so thankful to have been given this opportunity; it was just amazing, and a privilege and an honour to be given the opportunity to build such strong relationships.”
An added benefit of having more than 25 different ethnicities visit the marae together, was the new friendships developed between ethnicities. “It was a wonderful atmosphere with many friends being made amongst peoples who probably would not otherwise meet – there are already planned barbecues between, for example, Indonesian and Filipino families, who have completely different cultures.”
The day included the planting of a tree on the marae grounds by the association, signifying the putting down of roots and developing relationships.
Planning for the next visit, in about six months’ time, is already underway, said Mr Singh. “Everyone who went has been sharing just how wonderful it was, which is encouraging even more people to want to attend.”