Mahi māra – Gardening – A labour of love

What a dismal day it was here in Ōtautahi the other Sunday. Raining and cold. I really did not feel like going outside and working in the māra. However, the day was clearing and I had my Pirita to sow.

Pirita/green mistletoe seeds

In an effort to boost diversity and bring native birds back into the city, Christchurch City Council have launched a Citizen Science Project. The Backyard Mistletoe Project is a city wide project that encourages people to sow native mistletoe in their backyards. 9000 Pirita seeds have been harvested from Banks Peninsula and distributed to 450 eager Christchurch gardeners.

Each gardener has registered with CCC and has committed to sowing and monitoring 20 seeds. With a success rate of 5% we will be lucky if one plant germinates from 20 seeds.

My friend Sally and I registered. She collected our seeds from the Botanic Gardens. They had to be sown the following day. So out into the cold, wet garden I traipsed looking for bare branches of appropriate host trees to sow these tiny taonga.

Unhelpful gardening pal

Meanwhile, my devoted little gardening pal Buddy Boy elected to remain inside. Curled up tight, asleep on the bed.

Although seed sowing registration has now closed, anyone interested can still register online to follow the projects progress.

More information

Parihaka – We look for Peace and we find War

“Taking as their symbol the white feather, the chiefs Te Whiti and Tohu led Parihaka in one of the worlds first-recorded campaigns of passive resistance”

                                                                                   Ask That Mountain – Dick Smith

coverParihaka settlement lies in the Taranaki region of Aotearoa, located between Mount Taranaki and the Tasman Sea. In the late 1800s, Parihaka was reputed to be the largest Māori village in New Zealand with a population of about 1500 and was described as the most populous and prosperous Māori settlement in the country. Parihaka had its own police force, bakery and bank and used advanced agricultural machinery. The village was founded in about 1866 by Māori chiefs Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi on land seized by the government during the unlawful post war land confiscations of the 1860s.

Parihaka, the principal Maori stronghold in New Zealand, is an enormous native town of quite an imposing character….I never before saw such number of Maoris. It was such a picturesque sight, such gay colours, fine-looking men and pretty girls.

– Mary Dobie, The Graphic, 1881

                                                                           – Ask That Mountain – Dick Scott

At dawn on 5 November 1881, 1600 troops and militia entered the Parihaka settlement, many on horseback. Although troops were met by hundreds of tamariki skipping, singing and offering food they, nevertheless, continued with their attack. In her book Days of Darkness on page 218, historian Hazel Riseborough claims:

“Europeans were concerned about their superiority and dominance which, it seemed to them, could be assured only by destroying Te Whiti’s mana. As long as he remained at Parihaka he constituted a threat to European supremacy in that he offered his people an alternative to the way of life the European sought to impose on them.”

The military assault on Parihaka with all its ensuing atrocities mark the 5th November, for many, as being the blackest day in New Zealands history.

The following 30 minute Photographic Survey was produced by Taranaki Museum in 1981

Ngā Tākaro Māori – Māori games

Ki-o-Rahi is the original Māori ball game. If you’re keen to give Ki-o-Rahi a go (or even stand on the side line and cheer) you can make your way down to The Commons Hub on Sunday October 18th for demonstrations and workshops.

Cover of Nga Taonga Takaro Cover of Games and Pastimes of the Maori Cover of Papers to conference

Find tākaro books and CDs in our collection.

Ki-o-Rahi has been revived over the past 50 years throughout Aotearoa. This game, it is said, is based on the legend of Rahitutakahina and the rescue of his wife, Tiarakurapakewa. The game tactics involve courage, stealth and ingenuity.

The game is fast-paced and played on a circular field with concentric circles. It involves two teams (each with a minimum of seven players), a central target and a small round woven ball known as a ‘ki’. Ki-o-Rahi involves running, sidestepping, being evasive with the ki, jump shots and blocking. Not to mention strategic thinking, communication and team work.

It is being taught and enjoyed by men, women and children in France, America and Europe. Māori games are definitely making a comeback. This is a powerful testament to the strength of Māori and the will to surmount the effects of colonisation.

Personally I’ve never played Ki-o-Rahi. The closest I’ve come to running fast in a team was as a teenager playing indoor basketball for Avondale College. Māori games we played included:

  • Whai – played with a long loop of flax strip, twisted and pulled to create designs,
  • Ti rakau – the use of flax flower stems that were both thrown and caught,
  • Patu ihu – a game of cards, involving a sore nose for the loser
  • and of course Kaukau Taniwha – rolling over, diving off, scrambling aboard a log that came in and out of a Piha swimming lagoon.

Just thinking about playing games makes me feel like getting out there and being active. I suppose I could play with the cats while I’m gardening after work this afternoon.

Games are part of the Māori psyche. They promote dexterity, problem solving, team work, flexibility, hand and eye coordination. We learn to think quickly and to be strong and swift in our movements. Masterfully woven into the fabric of tākaro Māori are the unique world views and oral traditions of our tupuna.

More about Tākaro Māori