Artists and writ­ers gath­er­ing to share their art

Rotorua Weekender - - News - Brian Potiki

We climb in the van at the Wa­iariki Poly­tech (now Toi Ohomai In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy), all of us artists, with weavers strongly rep­re­sented.

Late Fri­day af­ter­noon, we’re sub­dued, a bit numb — it’s the start of Queen’s Birth­day week­end when mem­bers of Nga¯ Puna Wai­hanga (for­merly the Ma¯ ori Artists and Writ­ers Or­gan­i­sa­tion) travel to a marae, to catch-up and min­gle. These hui be­gan in 1973 at Te Kaha.

In the evening there was an im­promptu con­cert in the meet­ing house with po­ets, gui­tars, and clas­si­cal mu­sic. Writer Witi Ihi­maera is an ac­com­plished pi­anist.

In the 80s, nov­el­ists, short story writ­ers and drama­tists came to the fore, and the Sun­day night con­cert be­came a fix­ture.

Ten years later there were so many per­form­ing artists the con­cert ran for a day and a night.

We ‘younger’ ones could show­case our new work in front of a know­ing au­di­ence, though not nec­es­sar­ily our older peers — more likely in the lo­cal pub talk­ing ex­cit­edly about…golf.

It ended in 1997 at a marae near Dar­gav­ille. The pro­lif­er­a­tion of arts cour­ses in the var­i­ous wa¯ nanga bring­ing more vans, more stu­dents filled the meet­ing-house to burst­ing­point. Here’s a snap­shot from a marae near Te Kuiti: singing in the beer tent breath­ing all over Sel­wyn Muru get­ting him to play “You Don’t Know Me” while Hone Tuwhare gives thumbs up from the cor­ner and Para Matchitt passes round the rum which we drink from the bot­tle cap.

Brian Potiki is a lo­cal poet.

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