Italy coming to play
Ki-o-rahi trophy honours soldier
George Martin, a well- known Putaruru man who died in 2007, has had a ki-o-rahi (traditional Maori game) trophy dedicated in his memory.
The trophy will be contested between Italy and Mr Martin’s Whakaaratamaiti Marae hapu, Ngati Mahana in November.
The George Martin Maori Battalion Trophy honours Mr Martin’s efforts to revive ki-o-rahi in the 1970s and acknowledges the part played by his 28th Maori Battalion comrades in keeping ki-orahi alive.
Family spokeswoman Mrs Luana Martin-hokianga said for years Mr Martin said nothing about his mates playing Maori games in Italy but later told them they played ki-o-rahi while on leave. He said a dozen or so of his mates would join in. It was a way to become connected to their families and homeland thousands of miles away, and to ingratiate themselves with locals.’’
She said the 28th Maori Battalion veteran eventually ‘‘ changed his tune’’ amid the Maori Renaissance of the 1970s and encouraged a revival of ki-orahi at his marae where he informed a select group of rangatahi about the game his comrades proudly played in Italy during World War II.
‘‘He was a very humble and patient man who only passed on his vast knowledge of the game once he found the right young people who he thought would respect the game and treat it with integrity. For example he was adamant that the word ‘ki-o-rahi’ never leave our marae . . . it was a way to protect our people. It wasn’t until other people used it in public that he acquiesced,’’ Mrs Martin-hokianga said.
In 2008, shortly after Mr Martin died, Ki-o-rahi Akotanga Iho representative Paulette Lewis said a ki-o-rahi contingent was invited by Italian historians to visit the Ravenna beach sites where the Maori Battalion soldiers had played. The group performed kapa haka, visited the graves of New Zealand war dead and played three games of ‘‘ palla Maori’’ (Maori ball) with locals who recalled stories about Maori Battalion heroics.
Ms Lewis said the esteemed George Martin Maori Battalion Trophy will be contested in November, at the Waitangi Sports Grounds, when a unique fully carved ki-o-rahi field would be officially opened. Several countries had been invited including Italy, France and Pasifika teams. ‘‘ This field will be a spiritual home for ki-o-rahi and a place where families of Maori Battalion soldiers can gather to remember the legacy they have left us through ki-o-rahi and the strong ties they forged through the game,’’ she said.
GEORGE MARTIN: Former Putaruru man and 28th Maori Battalion member George Martin.