A dusting of Olympic gold

22 August 2012

Te Maru O Hinemihi (In the Embrace of Hinemihi) have launched a new website (Hinemihi.co.uk)

Dean Sully encountered Olympic gold dust when Hinemihi welcomed the New Zealand Olympic team with a formal powhiri (ceremonial welcoming) at Clandon Park in Surrey.

With the New Zealand Olympic team riding high in the per capita Olympic medals table (at the time 1st, but a finishing in a creditable fourth place, with GB finishing twelfth!), Hinemihi’s presence provided much needed tautoko (support) to inspire the New Zealand athletes to greatness in their Olympic events. The team was welcomed by Ngati Hinemihi (Hinemihi’s source community in New Zealand) and Ngati Ranana (London Maori Club) in a powhiri that included: a wero (challenge), karanga (ancestral call), whai korero (speeches), waiata (song), hongi (pressing of noses), karakia (prayer), hakari (feast), koha (gift exchange) and haka (dance).  In so doing the manuhiri (visitors) became at one (kotahitanga) with the tangata whenua (people of the land).

Karanga (ancestral call) by tangata whenua (people of the land) as part of the powhiri (welcoming ceremony)

Staff and students at the UCL Institute of Archaeology have been involved in the conservation of this tapuna whare (ancestral house) for several years and it was hoped that the visit would encourage greater awareness of Hinemihi’s presence at Clandon Park, both in New Zealand and in the UK.

This is an important phase for the conservation project, as despite considerable efforts in consultation and developing participatory projects; little progress has been made to improve Hinemihi’s physical condition. One of Dean's concerns as a conservator was the current condition of Himenihi, which is clearly in need of significant improvement; with peeling paint on her historic carvings and temporary tarpaulins on the roof to prevent leaks.

Ngati Hinemihi, Ngati Ranana and the New Zealand Olympic team performing a haka to Hinemihi

The New Zealand Olympic team have been very supportive of the proposed conservation project to develop Hinemihi as a functioning marae, to be used as a focus for Maori cultural activity in the UK, in the way that meeting houses are in New Zealand. Therefore, a decision was taken not to disguise Hinemihi’s poor condition, instead to present this as a spur for the current conservation programme.

It was a wonderful spectacle to see Hinemihi as the focus of all this attention, surrounded by so many people, kept warm by their presence. This event also provided a platform to launch a new website dedicated to Hinemihi’s People, organised by Te Maru o Hinemihi (In the Embrace of Hinemihi) a recently formed volunteer friends group.