Our friends are of diverse ethnicity, and we have attended citizenship ceremonies before as some elect to become New Zealand citizens, and not just residents.
To gain full citizenship status is a long process, and many boxes have to be ticked to qualify. Some years ago, we sponsored the immigration of friends from UK to New Zealand, so we proudly accepted their invitation to attend their ceremony where they would finally receive their citizenship papers.
But this ceremony was different; rather special in fact, as our Kāpiti Coast District Council had partnered with one of our local Iwi, or Maori tribes to hold the full ceremony at the Raukawa Marae in Ōtaki township, just north of Paraparumu. We looked forward to this event because we had never been on that marae, and to enter into the whare runanga or meeting house was a special event, and an honour for us. We were going to support our friends, and also be able to experience Maori culture, and take a look at the intricate carvings and tukutuku panel work that adorn the whare runanga or meeting hall, built in 1936.
If you have the opportunity to enter onto a marae, get to know a little about custom or protocol so you will better understand what is happening. This site- korero maori protocols for marae gives very good info. We read this before the event.
We timed our drive to Ōtaki to arrive at the Main Street entrance prior to the formal welcome call or karanga. A group of around 100 had gathered; soon to be citizens, accompanied by friends or relatives. While waiting outside, we chatted with KCDC’s Kaumatua Rakau-o-te-ora (Don) Te Maipi and Council’s Iwi Liason Officer Monica Fraser. I asked if it was appropriate to take their photos.
The karanga, the traditional welcome delivered in a high noted singsong style was called by the hosts on the Marae, and answered by a similar call by women who had joined our group outside. We filed through the gate and into the whare runanga. Women normally would sit towards the back, men in front, although for this ceremony, couples or families that were part of the ceremony were seated towards the front so they could be called forward easily.
A welcome to the proceedings was extended by Council’s Communications Officer Then the opening prayer was lead in Maori by Kaumatua Don Te Maipi. Followed by Whakatau- a personal welcome in Maori. Our Mayor Jenny Rowan then welcomed all guests and began calling forward each recipient in turn, taking their Oath of Allegiance and presenting to them their Certificates of Citizenship.
I was really fascinated by the interior.
All the rafters and beams are patterned with kowhaiwhai. You can see them as a border across the top of the photo and running along all beams.
There are many designs which may be symbolic or purely decorative.
Upright pillars are decorated with whakairo carvings. Each one different and symbolic of the tribes history.
In between are tukutuku woven panels. Each Iwi or tribe’s women would weave these, symbolic of their connection to the land, the sky, the trees, water and wind, even to time; all depicted in the various patterns created.
The closing prayer was read by Kaumatua Don Te Maipi.
Kay and I, and our friends were very impressed by the intimate and colorful ceremony, and truly loved the whole atmosphere of cordiality extended by our Maori hosts.
We came away buzzing. Truly an amazing experience.
Editor’s note: Jim McIntosh has a fascinating blog called: