It was a drizzly and windy day at Arai-te-uru, Hokianga South Head, when Pā Henare Tate and his ope from Motuti arrived to a powerful pōwhiri by over 60 people - kaumātua, kuia, parents, young people and a baby - from various South Hokianga communities. It was Saturday 17th November 2012. Pā Henare had come for a ritual he termed, “Whakatere ki Tai”. The first copy of his book, He Puna iti i te Ao Mārama (A Little Spring in the World of Light) was to be gifted to the sea. Following the pōwhiri and whakahoki mihi, the book was wrapped in a gold cloth, tied with flax, and placed in a kete, and carried by an appointed person down to the water’s edge for Pā Henare to cast into the sea. It was not the best day for the ritual. E pari mai ana te tai. The tide was coming in. E papaki tū ana ngā ngaru o Hokianga. The waves were pounding against the rocks. After a short karakia, Pā Henare cast the book into the swirling water. The tide and waves brought the book back into shore, as if it didn’t really want to go. Then there was a second cast of the book. It was told in no uncertain terms that it was to go. Eventually, the book disappeared from sight.
The ceremony signified the letting go and sending forth of the first fruit of his labour just as the practice was in the days of the tūpuna. In their days, the first fruit of crops, fish, arts, crafts were given away. Even the first-born child, called mātāmua, was taken and raised by the tūpuna (grandparents). The spirituality behind the ritual was that in giving away, one received the same in greater abundance. Secondly, in giving away what one had produced, one learnt that nothing produced was for oneself alone. In this case, a book is for others to read and not just reserved for the author.
It was the fifth book Pā Henare had brought to Arai-te-uru for release. He said Arai-te-uru was a very special place for him. In 1976, he had composed pātere, waiata, haka and waiata poi from nearby for the Rāwene 150th celebrations in 1977. The waiata “Karanga Hokianga” is one of those songs. The first performance by the combined culture groups for the Rāwene celebrations were also performed for the open sea at a nearby spot.
“Whakatere ki Uta” (launching ashore) will be held during celebrations on Tamatea marae on 1st December. The book will be available on that day.
To end the ceremony, all retired to Waiwhatawhata marae for mihi and kai – anō te manaaki o te iwi. What hospitality!
by Pā Henare