Friday, 27 July 2007

a hongi and a hangi

Tena koe!

As Maori Language Week draws to a close, I'm pleased to report I've done both of the above.

At the request of the author, we attended a book launch this week at the local tertiary college, which has its own marae (like a big ole meeting house), and they had The Whole Ceremony prior to the launch.

As you approach the marae as visitors, the hosts (in this case the staff of the college) issue a chant, the someone from the visitors' group responds. Then you're allowed through the gate and there's another chant and response, and you approach the building with lowered heads.

Inside, the speechifying begins - a man from the hosts gives a verrrrry long speech and then they sing a song, then a man from the visitors responds with a speech, and the visitors sing a song. Then it goes back to the host, speech and song, and the visitors again. It takes, in the words of a woman who taught at the institute who I sat with during the meal "as long as it takes"...and that is very true! (to another of our dinner companions, also a teacher at the college, she said "only two hours over time," to which the other lady responded "as usual...") Anyway after the multi-speeching, everyone sort of gets a bit more jolly and that's when the hongi is. All the hosts line up and you move along the line touching foreheads and noses or kissing on the cheek. It does rather feel as if you've very much met everyone.

Thereafter the book was blessed, and there were innumerable more speeches, and after that came the hangi. This is a great big meal of slow-cooked comfort food from a big underground oven (because this is the world of thin-crust Earth, with the bubbling mud and the sulphur and the geysers and the steam). It's meat and potatoes and kumara (root veg somewhere between potatoes and yams, sorta), and pumpkin, which btw is in EVERYTHING over here, and stuffing and good solid winter food, also with bread and jam and sponge cake in custard on the side.
Fortunately, the rather large hill in the picture is the very first thing I cycle up every single morning to get to work. So I can definitely afford to eat at a few more hangi.

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