There has been much speculation about the Pou. Negative commentary from one person received quite a bit of attention from the Mãori community both here and back in NZ. Many had an opinion and they varied from strongly supportive to very negative. At one stage the attendance of Ngati Toa at the unveiling was in doubt.
I myself was unaware of the project until recently. As someone who regularly visits Nurragingy Reserve and a ratepayer of Blacktown Council I was really interested in an object so clearly Mãori of origin being a part of the local landscape. I loved the idea that i would be able to take my children to a location close to home and talk to them about our culture. Discuss with them what the Pou mean and show them a fine example of Mãori craftsmanship.
After seeing the previously mentioned footage I approached a Ngati Toa member of the NSW Maori Warden whanau, Robyne Mokalei. She too was very interested in the Pou as they were carved by her nephews Tana and Hermann Salzman. Robyne had heard that unless welcomed by tangata whenua Ngati Toa were not coming.
Robyne approached Blacktown Council and was referred to the driving force behind the Pou being put in, Peter Filmer. Last year Peter was invited to Waitangi Day celebrations in Porirua at Takapūwāhia Marae. So impressed was he with our culture and the closeness of Porirua Council with the local iwi that he asked to bring a slice of it back to Blacktown to celebrate their 30 year sister city relationship.
Peter admitted that there had been communication break downs initially but the Council were keen to move forward. He was very receptive to Mãori Wardens being involved and to be guided by Matua Rawiri and Whaea Robyne when it came to tikanga mãori. We were keen to see the Pou be erected and wanted to help move the project forward.
Maori Wardens organised a meeting with local Darug Elders to hear their views. They gave their blessing to the project and shared some of their concerns. Many Darug elders were in attendance on Wednesday when we welcomed Taku Parai and the Ngati Toa delegation..
On Tuesday the 20th of May, Chris Tobin, a local Darug artist, performed a smoking ceremony to cleanse the whenua. As he explained to us the ceremony was to clean away any lingering hurt or negative energy. Matua Rawiri, Whaea Robyne, Gareth & I were in attendance. It was the first time I witnessed a smoking ceremony. It was a peaceful event and I felt blessed to be there.
On Wednesday the 21st of May Darug Elders and local Mãori welcomed the Ngati Toa delegation to Nurragingy . Our Powhiri was a combination of Mãori and Darug traditions. Our manuhiri walked through the smoke of a Smoking Ceremony Fire. They were then Welcomed to Country by Aunty Edna and her grand daughter in both english and the Darug language. Songs were sung, stories exchanged and the final details for the unveiling were worked out between Ngati Toa and the Darug elders.
The Unveiling took place on a beautiful day. NSW Maori Wardens were onsite well before the sun came up. As is our way Mãori Wardens worked in the background to help things go smoothly, arranging chairs, directing visitors and providing information to those who were curious.
It was a beautiful hui,. Our photographs tell the story of the morning.
Would you like to hear the explanation of the Pou? Listen to Taku Parai and see photos here