Italy com­ing to play

Ki-o-rahi tro­phy hon­ours sol­dier

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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