The Rawene Chronicles

Interesting to review some times past. Here’s a couple of posts from a series of ‘chronicles’ which Sam and Hana Carpenter wrote from Hokianga back in 2008. An experience to treasure…

Karuwha Trust trustees Samuel and Hana Carpenter are this year (2008) hanging out in the Far North, at the beautiful little village of Rawene on the Hokianga harbour. The primary purpose of this Tai Tokerau retreat is to further their Maori language studies. This blog shares some of their experiences from this Northland adventure...

The Rawene Chronicles, no. 1
Feb 2008, Kia ora from the Far North! Greetings!

We arrived in Rawene late last Saturday night (16 Feb). It was some adventure (ordeal?). Our car towing a hired trailer – full of furniture – did not leave Auckland but broke down within 2 kms of home. We eventually left Auckland around 5pm. Another vehicle was borrowed to tow the trailer. That got to Rawene but then would not change gears properly the following morning when Murray Wood went to drive it and the trailer back to Auckland.

A third vehicle (from Steph Wood’s whanau) was called on to tow the trailer, which did make it back to Auckland, however it suffered a cracked windscreen shortly after leaving Rawene.

The return trip was meant to take one day with 2 vehicles; instead it took two with 5 vehicles! Our cat and dog had to suffer the (very) long day together and they are not each other’s favoured company at the best of times. We took a back road, believing it would be a short cut; this turned out not to be the case because of gravel from roadworks, rain, mist (we thought we may have taken a wrong turn and headed to the Urewera’s), a bull and various other creatures on the road. Steph and Murray’s car we are using up here broke down yesterday….

We were pretty shattered afterwards (and not just us but our every-expanding support crew!), but very thankful to have arrived safely.

The course has begun well. The tutor and most of the class are Ngapuhi/ Te Rarawa locals, which adds to the ‘authenticity’ of the experience. They are really welcoming. We have already been to one BBQ at the tutor’s place. Our tutor is big on ‘mita’ or the dialects of Maori – in this case Ngapuhi Maori and even more localised Hokianga words and references, which is interesting since we learnt Waikato dialect at uni! We have started to learn a Ngapuhi ‘moteatea’ (old chant) about the founding ancestor of Ngapuhi. There is a lot of Maori being spoken and it will be challenging to tune our ears in and begin to really understand.

Sam is still finishing his thesis; the end of March is now the aimed-for date.

Our whare looks out over the Hokianga harbour – in particular towards the Western entrance. The moods, light and shadows are always changing.

Nga mihi nui ki a koutou katoa! (Greetings to you all!)

Arohanui (Much love)

Sam and Hana

The Rawene Chronicles, no. 2
6 May 2008, Kapa Haka and the Maori Battalion
Hokianga sun-set

He mihi nui ki a koutou katoa. Greetings to you all.

Last time we wrote we were still reeling from our eventful move up to Rawene, our course had barely started, and an MA thesis was still to be completed.

Well, we can now report that said MA thesis has been completed (kua mutu te mahi! the work has been completed!), we are currently in the middle of our second set of assessments for our te reo course, and we have settled in – well, more or less. At least we have had two sets of visitors to stay, and have enjoyed exploring with them some of Northland’s historic sites, including two lovely little Catholic churches on the north side of the Hokianga and Te Waimate (Anglican) mission station not too far from Paihia. While on the north Hokianga we managed to miss Bishop Pompallier’s burial place – the sign posting was admittedly not wonderful!

The course is going well and the te reo is improving. Sam went with the class to the Northland Region Secondary Schools kapa haka festival at Okaihau College (in between Hokianga and the Bay of Islands) and was impressed with the standard of the performances. We are currently completing a kapa haka section in our course. It has been really fascinating learning some of the history and traditions surrounding kapa haka. The ‘modern’ action song was essentially the invention of Sir Apirana Ngata in the early 1900s who used touring cultural performance groups to both recruit Maori troops for the first world war (and later the second world war), entertain them in training camps before their departure, and finally, welcome them home (those who were fortunate enough to do so). These action songs incoroporated older elements of haka and poi and were often set to popular tunes (a lot of them from America). So essentially, modern kapa haka arose and developed in the context of WWI and WWII, as well as being an important factor in the Maori cultural revival of that period. Ngata famously argued that it was Maori involvement in and commitment to the British Empire’s (and New Zealand’s) war effort that was ‘the price of citizenship’, that is, the price they had to pay in order to prove to the rest of New Zealand that they deserved to be treated equally in NZ society (whether that happened must be open to considerable doubt; see speech by Dr Pita Sharples

The history of the 28th Maori Battalion (‘Te Hokowhitu a Tumatauenga’) is still very much a big thing up here. Sam is currently reading an autobiography of Arapeta Awatere (from Northland and the East Coast) who rose through the ranks to become lieutenant-colonel of the Battalion. Awatere’s mix of earthy and philosophical wisdom, his understanding of both Pakeha and Maori worlds, and his humanity are inspiring (even despite the fact he was writing this work from Mt Eden prison where he was serving a sentence for the murder of his mistress’s lover – yes, life is often complex, though many of world literature’s most important productions have been written in forced confinement of course. He believed the conviction was unfounded or unjustified, as did others). The cover text of the book reads ‘Here is a story of Shakespearian dimensions:…Post-war he became a distinguished community leader, an acknowledged authority on tikanga Maaori; he was a founding member of Outward Bound and an Auckland city councillor…. He was a poet, a musician, a composer, an orator and a genealogist’. (For those interested the book details are Awatere. A soldier’s story, edited by Hinemoa Awatere, Huia, 2003.)

RaweneAnother big part of our life at the moment is our interactions with a few kids in the neighbourhood, three 3 year olds in particular. We are currently minding one of them for around 2 weeks while his caregiver visits relatives in Auckland. A few days ago we were invited to a whanau gathering to mark the end of the school holidays and the return of some of the older tamariki to Auckland boarding schools (including Wesley College, ironically just around the corner from Sam’s parent’s home). It must be stated that the spread of kai was impressive, especially the seafood!

All our love and regards,


Sam and Hana

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