‘They are talking about changing the Kiwi flag.’ I am driving back to Alice Paul’s house by the lower Hutt River. It is night and the taxi driver and I have struck up a conversation. A new flag sounds like a good idea. They say the land is very young in New Zealand or Aotorea as it is called in the Maori language. The land of the long white cloud.
Ferns grow huge here and give the place a prehistoric feel. We are on a pacific island and you can feel it. The Maori culture is woven proudly into the colonial identity of the people. We were welcomed traditionally by the festival staff and performers who were from all cultures. The ceremony was very definitely Maori. The air between the newcomers (us) and those already here (those whose land we are on) was cleaned by a song sung by a young woman. A solemn welcome and a call for respect.
As we followed her upstairs we could hear the haka and it had the energy of a wild beast. It was an invitation to engage. We sat as they stood and danced before us making it clear that we are guests here and that is to be enjoyed and respected. We responded speaking of our own ancestry and sang a song in the language of my native land. We danced. The movement came from Rian. A piece of work created by Michael Keegan Dolan and me with four other musicians and eight dancers of different ancestry. Because of the context of the ritual our moves spoke anew and had meaning. I was proud of the work we had done. Newly proud.
The oldest castle is nothing in time compared to the songs and dances of the first people. Our songs go back to beginnings and our beginnings are still alive in our songs.