Home' Napier Mail : November 8th 2011 Contents 23
NAPIER MAIL, NOVEMBER 9, 2011
Much more than just a house
Doing up marae's
meeting house a
real labour of love
By VIVIENNE HALDANE
Chiefly place: Top, Chief Porangahau is depicted in the carved entrance.
Team effort: Soon, Arama, Maureen and Alan will be able to sit back and
relax and enjoy the celebrations, to which everyone is welcome.
The style of carving
here has stories, but not
about ancestors that
I can only guess as to
why this is so.''
Hands on: Alan Wakefield and
Ahuriri Houkamau will welcome
people on to the Porangahau marae
for the centenary celebrations.
Paint staking: Maureen Wakefield loves the detailed work involved in
Restoring the meeting house at
Porangahau Marae has been a
labour of love and Maureen
Wakefield will miss it when it's
I'll be a bit sad. What will I
do?'' she says, looking around. She
and a group of six others, who she
refers to as the sticklers'', have
spent months stripping paint off,
then repainting the many
carvings that adorn the whare.
From November 17 to 20, Te
Poho o Kahungunu Marae will
celebrate its centenary.
Look at what Hokowhitu
McGregor started. Called on to
carve the marae in the early
1900s, the tohunga whakairo
(master carver) from Feilding
brought with him his nieces and
nephews, the children of his sis-
ter, Riria Sciascia, nee McGregor.
Those nieces and nephews are
our grandparents and they are a
big part of who populated
Porangahau,'' says Ahuriri Hou-
kamau, one of the centenary
Hokowhitu McGregor was
trained as a carver in the Tainui
region in Waikato which partially
explains why the carvings are not
in the Kahungunu style.
We have an unusual whare
when it comes to carvings,'' says
Ahuriri. Usually the carvings of
the building tell the history of
those people or an event that
happened in that area. Raina
Ferris, nee Sciascia, whose grand-
father was one of the children that
came with Hokowhitu to build the
wharenui, put it well when she
said it's the Maori library'. Our
early people had this in order to
hand down knowledge but we
don't have those sort of carvings
on this house. The style of carving
here has stories, but not about
ancestors that belong here. I can
only guess as to why this is so.''
Weekends still mean work for
the core group labouring away at
the marae. Twittering sparrows
fly in and out of the hole at the top
of the whare, blissfully unaware
they will have to find another
home to nest, because soon the
carvings will be put in place.
In the leadup to the cele-
brations the biggest job has been
this one, but it will be worth it.
You are a little bit whakama
[embarrassed], if you have people
coming to your place and its dil-
apidated and run down. But they
still come to see your thistle grow-
ing on your marae,'' carving
restorer Alan Wakefield says.
What does this place mean to
him? Its my turangawaewae. My
place. That's where I can go and
You can go anywhere else but
you will always have home as
home. It's here, even though I live
just up the road.''
He and Maureen have been
involved in carving, weaving and
other Maori arts (kowhaiwhai and
tukutuku work) for many years.
They spent time in Taupo as
tutors in these arts, but
Porangahau is where the couple
have spent most of their lives. It's
a place that provides everything
they need and, Alan reflects, was
like that for their parents and
grandparents as well.
They didn't have to go any-
where because there was no lack
of anything. There was an
exchange of ideas, food and we
were educated by it. It has
changed for those who have gone
away to other parts and they are
doing very well.
Previously, there was no need
to be a lecturer or a scientist
because you didn't need it here.
All your science was learned from
the elders and from both
Is he looking forward to the
celebrations? Very much so. It's
great to bring our younger ones in
so they can live right through it
and 50 years down the line they
are going to be like us. They are
going to have to keep it going.
This house is the house of Poho
o Kahungunu and it's a mark left
by our old koroua, Hokowhitu
McGregor. We are not going to
build a house ourselves but we
can embellish this one as much as
we can by being here. It's more
than an honour. It's an obligation.
And you do, you owe it. The land
or the house doesn't belong to me.
I belong to the house.''
Looking over at his grandson,
Arama Wakefield Sciascia who is
quietly immersed in his mahi
(work), he says, Ask Arama
where his home is? He knows.''
Ahuriri feels similarly, Young
people move away and don't know
this place or want to come to it.
That's why these sort of events
and the DIY Marae project are so
important -- it's there to bring
them back home. Growing up
away from here, I fully under-
stand what it's like to lose that
connection. I've made it my thing
for the last few years to get that
back and bring my whanau home.
It feels very good.''
Alan and Ahuriri joke about
their respective roles in getting
things ready for the centenary.
I've been given the new title of
Punkah Wallah and he's Chief
Walla Walla,'' says Alan.
Jokes aside, they are quick to
point out that the big thanks for
organising the centenary goes to
others. It takes many people to
get these events going and it's
thanks to our whanau for money
and food. This marae runs on the
smell of an oily rag. The most help
comes from people who will never
see it and if they do turn up, they
are very quiet. We are only at the
forefront of it. The army behind us
are the ones who we really rely
on,'' Ahuriri says.
There's a saying: Ehara taku
toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa
takitini' -- My strength is not that
of my own, it comes from others
Contact Ahuriri Houkamau
06 844 4152 or Marina Sciascia
06 855 5469, email marina.
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