Artists and writers gathering to share their art
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.