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August 5, 2013 | by  | in Features |
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He tutaki Tipuna

Uia mai koia

Whakahuatia ake

Ko wai te whare nei e?

Ko Te Kani!

Ko wai te tekoteko kei runga?

Ko Paikea! Ko Paikea! Hi!

 

The Paikea tekoteko was carved in the 1880s for the house of Te Kani-a-Takirau in Uawa (Tolaga Bay). Built by Patararangi of Mangatuna, it has not been seen by any of Paikea’s descendants since the carving was sold in the 1890s. Some readers may be familiar with the whakatauākī from the Paikea haka composed by Mikaere Pewhairangi of Tokomaru Bay, on the East Coast: “Uia mai koia whakahuatia ake ko wai te whare nei e? Ko Te Kani! Ko wai te tekoteko kei runga? Ko Paikea! Ko Paikea! Hi!” The tekoteko acknowledged in this well-performed and well-loved haka is the same Paikea tekoteko at the American Museum of Natural History today.

In April 2013, a group from Tolaga Bay as a part of Toi Hauiti, on the East Coast of the North Island, journeyed to the ‘Land of the Free’ to reconnect with this important piece of Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti history. I was fortunate enough to be a part of this team. I’m not exactly sure why I got to go, but am very stoked that I did.

New York was everything I had heard and hoped it would be and more; indeed, as my girl Alicia says, a “concrete jungle where dreams are made of”. There is energy to that city; from Times Square and Broadway, to the street vendors and the distinct New Yorker accent that is so overwhelming and fast-paced that it’s intoxicating to be around. We managed to do some celeb-stalking of Emilia Clarke, a.k.a. Daenerys Targaryen from the HBO TV series Game of Thrones. Another thing while we were there that was quite exciting was that we were fortunate enough to pay a visit to ‘Boss Lady’, Rt Hon Helen Clark, at the UN offices.

However, some people in our team might say that all these events pale in significance when compared to the monumental experience that occurred at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). The AMNH houses some very important pieces from the farthest corners of the world. However, the piece that was most significant to our group was the Paikea tekoteko.

Needless to say, on 16 April 2013, when we first met Paikea at the AMNH, it was a very emotional moment for us all. I cannot possibly encapsulate the different types of emotions that were felt in that room that day. Heoi, ka tangi te ngakau i te kitenga atu i tō matou tipuna rongonui, e noho mokemoke ana ki whenua kē, i tērā taha o te ao. Suffice to say, more than a few tears were shed; some happy, others sad.

It may reassure those at home who have not but would surely love to see Paikea, that he is in immaculate condition, and credit must be given to the staff at the AMNH for that reason. His condition is of such a high quality that it not only allows one to feel more connected to Paikea himself, but also to the ancestors who were possibly alive when Paikea was first carved. It is astounding to imagine what this figure must have seen standing atop Te Kani-a-Takirau’s own whare.

Currently showing at the AMNH, there is the Te Papa exhibition on Tohora that showcases the connection of different peoples to whales. The Paikea story was our connection, and the Paikea tekoteko was a major part of our presentation. It was awesome when we were notified that Paikea would be present at all of our presentations. So for the next four days we were able to spend time with Paikea, while presenting his story, among others, to the visitors who came to watch our show. The audience members varied from primary-school children, the AMNH staff, all the way to the elderly; a notable audience member was American comedian Tina Fey. Many audience members approached our group after the performances and thanked us for sharing our ancestor and our way of seeing the world with the people of New York City, and that is how we knew that our intention of sending our messages to the wider world had been achieved.

Overall, it is safe to say that every member of our team considers this a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This has been a journey of learning about others and about our self-identity that we might not have learned had we not been a part of this team. Finally, we would like to thank all those who had a hand in helping us on this trip: our sponsors, fundraisers, and supporters; thank you all.

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