Kahungunu leader Piri Sciascia returns home

By Te Ao - Māori News

A great leader of Ngāti Kahungunu has been returned to his home. Professor Piri Sciascia now lies in state at Rongomaraeroa Marae in Pōrangahau, Hawke's Bay. He is surrounded by his loved ones who are mourning the loss of a stalwart of haka, Māori language and tikanga.

In the coming days, the masses are expected to converge on the marae to pay homage and bid him a final farewell.

"He Toi Whakairo, He Mana Tangata." Where there is artistic excellence there is human dignity, Ngāti Kahungunu say Piri Sciascia was the embodiment of this saying. 

Piri's younger sister, Raina Ferris, says, "He was that son who sat at the feet of his elder Pāpā Frank, he was a mokopuna chosen because of the knowledge he had, Piri grew up in that world. He went to Te Aute College where his knowledge and skills increased and that was the beginning of his journey. He was that son who cared for people and was very hospitable. He took great care of his family, his home and the elderly."

Raina is married to Doc Ferris, Piri's brother-in-law. "From way back, he was one of those guardians for ancestral knowledge for this area, particularly the history of Ngāti Kere, Ngāti Pihere, Ngāti Manuhiri, with links to Korongata and to Te Whatuiāpiti. At Korongata is Hikawera, the ancestor of Ngāti Pōporo, that was Piri's lineage," he says.

Ngāti Kahungunu chair Ngahiwi Tomoana says, "Ngāti Kahungunu are bereft at the passing of one of our tribe's greatest mouthpieces. Piri was the pinnacle of Ngāti Kahungunu, of Tākitimu waka from Tauranga, to the East Coast, to Kahungunu country to Mt Aoraki, to Ngāi Tahu country. Our statesman here has been silenced and our canoe, our people, are in mourning. Our marae mourns, our families mourn, we all are in a state of mourning."

While he has been rightly returned to Ngāti Kahungunu to be laid to rest, Piri also has ties to Ngāti Māmoe, Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Rangitāne.

Raina Ferris says, "The Māori is not the only world of which we speak. You know we are Italian as well and he was super instrumental in our migration back to Italy to reconnect that whakapapa line. He played a huge part in that along with others." 

"Oh, there's the Sciascia flag, so we have a Sciascia flag flying at the moment, and our Scottish genealogy as well. So genealogy is the most important thing," she says.

The gifts this man has left in his wake in arts and all arenas will forever be remembered.

"He was the beginning of Tamatea Arikinui and his sisters. He was a very staunch supporter of the ability of women to stand and to learn the ancient Māori customs pertaining to the performing arts," Doc Ferris says.

Over the coming days, the masses are expected to descend onto the marae to bid a final farewell. The burial of this great leader is expected to take place on Wednesday.