Tūhourangi Ahurei celebrates iwi ahead of Tarawera commemorations

By James Perry

Hundreds of Tūhourangi gathered today at Te Pākira Marae in Whakarewarewa for the biennial Tūhourangi Ahurei.

Tomorrow marks 133 years since Tarawera erupted, destroying the world-famous Pink and White Terraces, and displacing many people from the area. Today's festival brings together the descendants of those people. Kataraina Mahutonga who performed for Apumoana marae today says the festival is exciting as it provides an opportunity for people to come together and celebrate their Tūhourangi heritage.

Kahu Tapiata, one of the nannies from Te Pākira marae was thrilled by the younger generations, and their performances in Te Rau Aroha wharekai, which saw three marae perform traditional items. 

Ngatarawahi Fairhall from Hinemihi Marae says today's gathering is important as it allows the iwi to share kōrero, and remember the journey's their ancestors underwent in the wake of the June 10, 1886 eruption.

He says some Tūhourangi headed north, others journeyed east towards Te Puke and many sought refuge at Whakarewarewa.

Fairhall adds that while many of his generation are not aware of the background to the Ahurei, it has allowed the iwi to re-tell stories, and reflect on their history, saying for example that if it wasn't for Hinemihi the wharenui that protected his ancestors, they would not be where they are now.

Tukiri Tini, who performed with Te Pākira today says one of the aims of the festival, held as close to June 10 as possible is for the old songs as well as the stories to be kept alive. 

Kahu Tapiata says the twirling of the poi, the haka, and the singing that echoed around Te Pākira Marae today was just fantastic, and was pleased to see the joy and emotion pouring out of the mokopuna of Tūhourangi today.