Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Festival strengthens ties

TWO CULTURES: Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust Board chairman Grant Hawke and Auckland Chinese Community Centre chair Arthur Loo are excited about this Saturday’s Taniwha and Dragon Festival. Historic cultural links forged in the early twentieth century will be honoured this weekend. The ties binding the Maori and Chinese communities will be celebrated in the Taniwha and Dragon Festival at Orakei Marae this Saturday. Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust Board chairman Grant Hawke says people may be surprised to learn the depth of the connections between local Chinese and iwi which stretch back to the 1930s and 1940s when members of Ngati Whatua Orakei worked for Chinese at Glen Innes market gardens. "It was very important. It supplied a huge amount of employment for Maori and meant they could bring home fresh vegetables," he says. Mr Hawke also has a very personal connection to the gardens. His paternal grandmother worked the fields. After she suffered a heart attack while working, his father was raised by two Chinese families. The Auckland Chinese Community Centre chair Arthur Loo says there are many similarities between Maori and Chinese culture. "Like Maori people, we worship our ancestors, revere our elders and believe in consensus decision-making. It's about the subjugation of the self for the greater good of the community," Mr Loo says. "The festival will provide a symbolic welcome, but I think it goes to help strengthen and emphasise the ties Maori and Chinese have always had." He says the two cultures also have ancestral connections. "The DNA of Maori can be traced back to a native hill tribe of Taiwan." The free Taniwha & Dragon Festival is the culmination of talks between marae leaders, Auckland Chinese community leaders and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples. It starts with a huge Chinese dancing dragon and a Maori welcoming ceremony or powhiri. The festival that follows will feature traditional and contemporary Maori and Chinese entertainment, culture, crafts and food stalls. There will also be a workshop where traditional Maori and Chinese kites will be made and flown. This is only the start of the renewed collaboration, Mr Hawke says. The powhiri kicks off at Orakei Marae at 9am and the festival will run from 10am to 5pm. - © Fairfax NZ News KARINA ABADIA Last updated 05:00 24/04/2013

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