Te Matakahi o Ngāti Whātua celebrates first batch of graduates

By Tumamao Harawira

The saying 'Kei whare Pūngāwerewere ō rātou nā marae - Lest the marae becomes a place of cobwebs is both a metaphor and a warning to iwi, who fail to revitalise their paekōrero and paekaranga.

Now the first inductees of Te Matakahi o Ngāti Whātua have graduated following a three-year journey to discover their Ngāti Whātuatanga. Inductees learn reo, tikanga, and stories that are particular to Ngāti Whātua.

Following three years of hard work, 20 Te Matakahi o Ngāti Whātua graduates have made it. For Te Kura Taiaho, one of the two main facilitators, the academy was but a dream, a dream to reinvigorate the dying art of oratory and karanga on the marae within the boundaries of Ngāti Whātua, 'Mai i Maunganui ki Tāmaki'.

"This was just a dream about 10 years ago. I began to speak with my relation Joe Pihema, I also spoke with my elders like Pita Pou, and they all supported the idea. But it was just a thought back then."

Ancestors smiling

For Joe Pihema, the other half of the dynamic duo, it was very much the same, creating a legacy.

"The speaker's perch of Ngāti Whātua is thin on the ground. So three years ago  Te Kura and I came up with the idea of establishing an academy."

"Te Matakahi comes from that old saying 'Though the wedge is small, it overcomes the totara'."

For Te Atakura Hunia, one of the graduates of Te Matakahi o Ngāti Whātua, it's about creating an intergenerational movement where taonga are handed down to the next generation.

"No doubt the ancestors are smiling over this initiative, and the thing is, it was their parting wish during their time. The embodiment of it, there is nothing better."

Along with the graduation, Te Matakahi also welcomed a new batch of students for induction. It's the embodiment of the saying, 'ko te tamaiti i akona ki te kāinga, tūngia ki te marae tau ana - A child raised at home will be adept at standing on the marae'