Editor's Note: The following is the address referred to in Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright's Waitangi Day Address
ROPEWORKS – HE TAURA WHIRI
JOAN METGE DBE
Rau rangatira ma, nga mata waka, nga karangaranga maha, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou.
On Wellington's Anniversary Day in 1990, a Maori friend and I joined the crowd streaming on to Petone Beach to witness
a re-enactment of the arrival of the first British settlers and their reception by the tangata whenua. Covering every
square inch of the beach we picnicked, sang and waited patiently until two tall ships emerged from behind an island and
costumed "settlers" disembarked into the ships' cutters. Two carved waka dashed out from the shore, literally ran rings
round the cutters and escorted them towards the beach. Descendant of Scottish settlers who arrived in Auckland in 1842,
I experienced an unexpected rush of pride and identification - with the settlers being landed on the beach, yes, but
even more with the friendly, rainbow crowd and the waka cleaving the harbour waters with such panache. 1
Reflecting on my vivid memory of that experience, I see it as containing three elements essential to building our New
Firstly, the unique contribution of the Maori people;
Secondly, celebration of the ethnic diversity within our population; and
Thirdly, a sense of belonging to the land and each other, that is, a strong national identity.
Of course there are other essential features to our nationhood, democracy and recognition of human rights, for example.
But for present purposes I shall concentrate on these three.
For at least thirty years we have been debating three competing models of nationhood, each with its passionate
The first model is summed up in the slogan "We are all New Zealanders". This model emphasises the goal of national
unity but devalues diversity and the Maori contribution by implication. It is a re-statement of the old policy of
assimilation imposed by a dominant majority on the Maori and other minorities.
The second model is encapsulated in the word "biculturalism". This model focuses on the relationship between the heirs
of the two parties to the Treaty of Waitangi. By implication, it sidelines discussion of national unity and the place of
The third model is summed up as "multiculturalism". This model focuses attention on the large number of different
cultures now established in New Zealand and their right to recognition. By implication, it reduces Maori culture to one
among many and sidesteps the issue of national unity.
Each of these models leaves out of account one or more of the elements I have identified as essential features of New
Zealand nationhood. As a nation looking forward to the bi-centenary of our founding, we need to do some lateral thinking
and develop a model of nationhood that is inclusive and positive about our relations with each other.
And so we come to the title I have chosen for this lecture RopeWorks - He Taura Whiri. The Maori word 'taura' means a
rope and 'whiri' means 'to plait', the technical process used in rope making. 'He taura whiri' is 'a plaited rope', a
metaphor much beloved by Maori orators. They commonly use it to describe the way middle-sized descent groups - hapu -
are plaited together in the iwi by common descent and the diplomatic skills of the rangatira. They also apply it to any
situation where disparate elements are combined in a unity.
Making ropes the traditional way, Maori twisted and rolled strands of scraped flax (muka) together to make longer
strands (aho) and then plaited as many as sixteen aho together to make ropes, some round, some square. The strands might
vary in thickness and colour, and new ones were easily spliced in. A rope thus made was many times stronger than any of
its strands alone. All of us have experience of ropes in our everyday lives, so we should readily understand how this
metaphor could be used to inspire a new model of nation-building.
Such a model would begin with strands representing the two parties to the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori and Pakeha, splice
in the diversity of other ethnic groups, and plait them all together together into a strong and effective whole,
creating a sense of belonging to each other, of national identity. Cliff Whiting has translated this metaphor into
visual terms in his drawing 'The Rope of Peoples'.2
Once we have developed our vision for the future we can only achieve it if we work together. I used the term
'RopeWorks' in the title to emphasise that nation-building, like rope-making, involves skill, co-operation and
continuous hard work.
What is the extent of our ethnic diversity? In this context, the relative size of the groups matters less than their
total number and the degree of overlap between them. In the 2001 Census, respondents identified themselves as belonging
to sixty ethnic groups. 3 The Statistics Department classified these into five main ethnic groups: the European group,
which consisted of a majority who identified themselves as New Zealand European or Pakeha and 24 small groups with
origins in the United Kingdom and Europe; the Maori group; the Pacific Peoples, comprising 9 constituent groups; the
Asian ethnic group, comprising 17 constituent groups; and an 'Other' category comprising 10. Significantly, nearly 12%
of respondents declared themselves as belonging to two or more groups, and this percentage had more than doubled since
1991. Nearly half of the Maori group and 12% of the European group belonged to other groups as well. The 60 ethnic
groups thus identified vary widely in the extent to which their members interact socially and have a strong group
A brief aside about this word 'Pakeha'. Some people reject it as a label, in the mistaken belief that its meaning is
derogatory. I know at least ten stories purporting to explain its origin and/or meaning. None can be substantiated; most
sound like the tall stories people tell to tease or to disguise their ignorance. Maori people generally use the word
descriptively to refer to people of British or European origin who have put down roots in this country. They stretch
this basic meaning to include all non-Maori when they use the pair 'Maori and Pakeha'. Of course, individuals can say
the word Pakeha with a sneer in their voice, but it is not built into the word itself. I for one am happy to identify
myself as Pakeha. 4
Even when strongly committed to one ethnic group, New Zealanders are not sealed off from each other or from outside
influences. We encounter each other at work, in the marketplace and in recreational activities. We form attachments
across cultural boundaries; we marry and raise children who have two or more cultural heritages. In short, we share
large areas of common life.
Our news media daily supply us with evidence of stereotyping, prejudice, misunderstanding and talking past each other.
If we are to build a strong and confident nation, we need to work, deliberately and hard, at improving the extent and
especially the quality of our common life.
As a contribution to that end, I propose to concentrate on four areas which we tend to take for granted, because they
are either too close to or too distant from everyday experience.
first, the events surrounding the first signing of the Treaty of Waitangi;
secondly, the language of communication between ethnic groups;
thirdly, public ceremonial; and fourthly, creativity in the arts.
The three elements of nationhood I identified at the beginning - the Maori contribution, celebration of diversity, and
a sense of belonging to each other - will inevitably come up under each of these headings.
First, then, the signing of the Treaty at Waitangi. The Waitangi National Trust has a whakatauki, a proverbial
saying,that begins 'Ko Waitangi te pitowhenua', Waitangi is the birthplace, the place where the umbilical cord and
placenta of our infant nation are buried. It goes on, 'Ko te Tiriti te kaihautu'. The Treaty is (like) the navigator who
calls directions and rhythms to the paddlers of a waka and keeps them on course.5
Despite its status as the 'founding document' of our nation, there is plenty of evidence, especially on talk-back shows
and in everyday conversations, to suggest that many New Zealanders know relatively little about the Treaty and do not
see it as relevant to their lives. Policy makers tell us that 'The Treaty lives', that is, it is not simply a matter of
historical record but has on-going relevance for the present and the future. But if it is to live in reality, it has to
live in the hearts and minds of all New Zealanders. How is that to be achieved? Not, I think, by off-putting textual
analysis and legal arguments. To make the Treaty come alive I know no better way than telling and retelling the story of
the events which took place at Waitangi on 5 and 6 February 1840 and following that up with the story of the signing
that took place nearest to you.
The Waitangi story is a lively one, full of drama and humour. Young or old, Maori or Pakeha, old settler or recent
immigrant, we can find someone among those present to identify with, see similarities between their situation and ours,
and learn from how they handled it. 6
The people present were more numerous and more diverse than is usually recognised. The 43 chiefs - the rangatira - who
signed the Treaty at Waitangi each had an entourage of supporters, making up a total of around 300- 400. They belonged
to independent political units (hapu) mainly from the Middle North, many of whom had been fighting each other in quite
recent times. Lieutenant Governor Hobson's officials, the missionaries and local settlers included Irish, Scots and
Cornishmen as well as English, the sailors from the ships anchored in the Bay were recruited from the Pacific and Asia
as well as Europe, and Bishop Pompallier and his staff asserted the French presence. There were women there too, wives,
servants and chiefs' relatives. One woman, Ana Hamu from Kawakawa, signed the Treaty as a rangatira in her own right.
And where there were women they were children, watching wide-eyed or skylarking round the fringes.
Throughout the two days, Maori and British ways of doing things were intertwined. Printed invitations were sent to the
rangatira in the name of the British Resident, James Busby. Early on 5 February, sailors from HMS Herald erected a
marquee on the grass in front of the British Residency. The chiefs and their supporters gathered there as on a marae.
They did not need to be welcomed: some had been owners of the land and all had frequently visited the Busbys there.
Coming ashore from HMS Herald, Hobson called first at the Residency where he was welcomed by James and Agnes Busby and
met local Europeans.
From the time Hobson took his seat in the marquee about 11 a.m., proceedings followed marae protocol. Hobson greeted
the chiefs, explained why he had come and read the English draft of the Treaty; Rev. Henry Williams translated what
Hobson said into Maori, then read and explained the Maori text. In Maori terms, Hobson and Williams together laid down
the kaupapa, the purpose of the hui, for debate. And debate it the chiefs did, observing marae tikanga or rules. The
local chief, Te Kemara from Te Tii on the south bank of the river, opened and later closed the speechmaking. Different
speakers set out the arguments for and against accepting the Treaty and the debate swung back and forth between the two
views. At four o'clock Hobson adjourned the debate till 7 February, probably advised by Busby that Maori needed plenty
of time to work their way to consensus. The chiefs moved back across the river to Te Kemara's settlement at Te Tii and
continued the debate into the night.
They returned to the Residency lawn early next morning, having decided to agree to the Treaty. Hobson was called ashore
from HMS Herald and the chiefs signed the text of the Treaty presented for the purpose. It was the Maori text which had
been read to them the day before. 7 In signing, they fell in with British insistence on written records, though for them
assent given orally before witnesses was enough. Aware of the differences between their cultures, the two parties did
their best to meet each other halfway.
The whole scene has a contemporary feel to it, an outdoor public event where today's Kiwis would have felt at home.
Features we like to think of as typically Kiwi - do-it-yourself and improvise- with-the-materials-at-hand were well to
the fore. Hobson arrived in the Bay on 29 January with a set of notes which he proceeded to knock into the shape of a
treaty with the help of Busby and Rev. Henry Williams. Williams and his son Edward received an English text at 4 pm on
February 4 and burnt the midnight oil translating it into Maori. The sailors created the marquee out of ships' sails and
made it festive with signal flags. Local traders, Maori and Pakeha, set up food stalls. When the chiefs came back to
Waitangi unexpectedly on 6 February, Hobson went ashore in civvies, pausing only to snatch up his naval hat.
Nor was conflict and protest missing. The chiefs' speeches were expressed with the full force of Maori rhetoric: many
were fiery to say the least. The traders who spoke Maori challenged the accuracy of Williams' translation and had a shot
at doing better. Bishop Pompallier interrupted proceedings to ask for a guarantee of religious freedom, Colenso
questioned whether the chiefs understood the provisions of the Treaty. Yet for all that, conflict was contained: there
was an atmosphere of mutual respect and good humour.
In spite of all the mistakes and conflicts that have marred our history since, the founding event of our nationhood was
one to be proud of -- and to learn from.
The second area of common life I shall explore concerns the language of communication.
From the founding of our nation to the present, language has played an important if not always positive part in
relations between our ethnic groups. Maori was the main language spoken at Waitangi in 1840. Not only the missionaries
but sailors, traders and settlers were reasonably proficient in it. Within a few years, however, English became the only
official language, dominating the areas of public life, including Parliament, in ways that caused deep resentment among
Maori. For long periods the Maori language was excluded from school playgrounds as well as classrooms and Maori public
servants were forbidden to write to Maori clients in Maori.
By the 1970s, the number of native speakers had declined so drastically that the Maori language was under serious threat
of extinction; its recovery became a central feature of the rebuilding of Maori identity and pride and has remained so
ever since. Special legislation made Maori the nation's second official language in 1986. The last five to ten years
have seen an escalating use of Maori in the areas of public life, where it serves as a symbol of the status of the Maori
people as the indigenous tangata whenua and of New Zealand's identity as a nation.
Public bodies, especially government departments and educational institutions, have added Maori names to the English
ones on their letterheads, on the facades and inside their buildings. Some of these are straightforward, Te Tari Tatau –
the Department of Measurement - for the Statistics Department, for example, but others make use of Maori metaphors in
illuminating ways. The Ministry for Education is Te Tahuhu o Te Matauranga, the ridgepole of the house of knowledge. The
Ministry of Maori Development, Te Puni Kokiri, is harder to render into English: 'puni' is a company of people, 'kokiri'
expresses the idea of forward momentum. Classification headings in public libraries now have Maori equivalents. The
computer section, for example, is labelled Rorohiko, combining 'roro', the word for brain and 'hiko', the word for
lightning which is also used for electricity, a bilingual pun of the kind Maori enjoy immensely.
Since the public rallied to the support of telephonist Naida Pou when she was threatened with sacking for saying 'kia
ora' when answering calls, 'kia ora' and 'tena koe' have become accepted greetings. In many places it is now customary
for public figures, whatever their own ethnic background, to preface their speeches with appropriate sentiments in
Maori. Over the last few years I have noted significant increases not only in the number of non-Maori speaking Maori in
public but in the level of proficiency attained.
Most significant of all, Maori words have been absorbed into New Zealand English in a continuing stream, their
acceptance marked by their use without explanation in the media, to the bemusement of overseas visitors and New
Zealanders returning after an absence. A short list would include: mana, whanau, hapu and iwi, karakia, powhiri, hui,
marae, kaumatua, kohanga reo, kuia, mokopuna, koha, rangatiratanga, waka, whakapapa - I could easily treble that number.
New Zealand English has become a true lingua franca, a language which belongs not to just one ethnic group but to us
all, recognised worldwide as a distinctive national variant of an international language.
However, while important for the development of national identity, the adoption of such words can actually become an
obstacle to inter-group communication and understanding. Typically, Maori words which have a range of meanings and rich
resonances are taken into English with only one meaning, and that often a secondary meaning. English speakers without a
knowledge of Maori assume that these reduced meanings are the entire meaning of such words, fail to understand what
Maori speakers are saying when they use them, and underestimate both the richness and adaptability of the Maori
language. Sometimes the limited meaning attributed to a word by non-Maori has a negative feedback effect on its usage by
Take the word kaumatua, for example. Used in an English context, kaumatua is usually glossed as 'elder' and pegged to
older age groups defined by age in years. In Maori, kaumatua has three
meanings: adult, old man or woman, and a group leader generally
but not necessarily drawn from the older generations. In short, a kaumatua is defined as much if not more by function
than by age. When English speakers use kaumatua with a meaning defined in terms of a minimum number of years, the result
is embarrassment all round: when, for example, they exclude acknowledged kaumatua from an invitation list because they
are below an arbitrarily chosen age limit, or when they fail to recognise someone as leader of a whanau or hapu because
they 'look too young', or when they assume that all Maori over a certain age are leaders knowledgeable about tikanga.
Unfortunately, Maori who did not learn Maori in a community setting have been adversely affected by this English usage.
The word 'whanau' is even trickier than kaumatua. English speakers who do not know Maori rightly identify whanau with
the English word 'family', but get into deep water when they assume that it refers to the nuclear family of parents and
children. For Maori the primary meaning of whanau, the one which comes first to mind, is a group of closely related
kinsfolk who act and interact with each other on an on-going basis and have a strong collective identity. This is a
special kind of extended family, one in which nuclear families are interdependent rather than independent. It is very
different from the kind of extended family familiar to Pakeha, but close to those familiar to ethnic groups from the
Pacific, Asia and parts of Europe. Besides this primary meaning, Maori also use whanau with more than a dozen other
meanings, which are defined according to context. Ideally, it should not be used for the nuclear family. Like 'family',
whanau can be used metaphorically to describe a group of non-kin gathered for a common purpose, such as supporting an
applicant in a job interview. Non-Maori have been quick to pick up on this use of the word along with the practice. In
general, however, they have difficulty following Maori when the latter shift seamlessly from one meaning of whanau to
another, often within the space of one sentence - just as we native speakers of English do with 'family'. 9
Perhaps the most hard-done-by of all Maori words is the tiny word 'utu'. It has been part of the New Zealand English
since before 1840 and in all that time it has almost invariably
been given the meaning of 'revenge'. This meaning is not only
reductive - it is misleading. 'Utu' was one of the most important ordering principles in traditional Maori society, the
principle of reciprocity which decreed that every gift received must be
reciprocated by one of equivalent or preferably greater value.
This applied to both good gifts - luxury foodstuffs, cloaks, greenstone - and bad gifts - thefts, insults, injuries,
homicide. It is easy to see how the reciprocation of bad gifts gave rise to the meaning of revenge, but the
reciprocation of good gifts was and is even more important in the Maori scheme of things. Gift giving was and is used to
initiate and strengthen relationships between two parties. Sometimes different kinds of gifts were exchanged – luxury
foodstuffs, including kumara, against fine cloaks, for example, - sometimes the same taonga - a greenstone mere,
perhaps, or a fine taiaha - passed backwards and forwards between whanau in different iwi on occasions such as weddings
and tangihanga, tying the two groups together over successive generations. In many rural areas Maori and Pakeha families
of long-standing also entered into on-going exchange relationships. On the other hand, Pakeha visiting or leaving a
district often accepted gifts from Maori with thanks for their generosity without understanding the implicit obligation
to make a return and so missed the opportunity to forge a continuing relationship. Pakeha gain mana in Maori eyes when
they enter into gift exchange as Norman Kirk did at Waitangi in 1974. Relations between our ethnic groups would be
vastly improved by a true appreciation of the principle and practice of 'utu'. 10
The word used to describe the 'tying together' associated with 'utu' is 'tuitui', a word meaning to tie or lash two or
more separate things together with a taura, a rope or cord. Do you remember the 1990 Sesquicentenary slogan 'Hui, hui,
huihuia, tui, tui, tuituia'? The translation given at the time was long and flowery and completely missed both the
message and the avian imagery. The original is so admirably succinct it is almost impossible to put into English but the
gist of it was a call to all New Zealanders to come together in the bonds of peace. It would repay reviving. 11
New Zealand English is enriched by the inclusion of Maori words, but this inclusion will be counter-productive unless we
arrest the distortion of meaning that often results. As always, the first step is to recognise that there is a problem.
The second step is for all who use them, especially journalists, teachers, politicians and the drafters of new laws, to
make a real effort to understand Maori words in their cultural context and to use them appropriately.
The third step is for as many people as possible to learn the Maori language. There are many reasons for learning Maori
but to my mind by far the most important is that it gives learners access to insightful ways of thinking and acting and
to a treasury of stories, poems and proverbs which are grounded in this land with its unique flora and fauna and
Giving special recognition to the Maori strand in our national taura whiri does not, as some fear, cut other ethnic
groups out of the picture: on the contrary it establishes a precedent and model for respecting their right to nurture
their own culture, while encouraging them to contribute to the common areas of national life. New Zealand English is
beginning to take in words from the languages of other groups settled here, mostly the names of foodstuffs and festivals
and in areas where their speakers are concentrated. Like the adoption of Maori words, this is a process that will happen
in its own good time.
From discussion of the language of communication it is but a short step to the third of the areas of common life I set
out to explore, the area of public ceremonial. By this I mean the ceremonial attached to such events as the visits of
VIPs, the openings of conferences, new buildings and public lectures, the presentation of degrees and other awards, and
the induction of incumbents of high positions, such as mayors and school principals. Up until the 1960s our public
ceremonial was almost entirely monocultural and monolingual in English, except on Waitangi Day. From the 1970s organised
marae visits introduced increasing numbers of Pakeha to marae protocol at firsthand, while Maori successfully campaigned
for a place in public ceremonial commensurate with their status as tangata whenua and signatories of the Treaty of
Waitangi. Now elements of marae ceremonial are included on public occasions as a matter of course, especially in the
This represents an important advance in the development of ceremonials that reflect our national make-up and and
reinforce our national identity, but there are still some problems to be ironed out, in particular when proceedings are
opened with a fullscale powhiri or welcome ceremony.
In a marae setting, the powhiri has a clear purpose, structure and tikanga or rules. 13 Its primary purpose is to bring
two groups of people - hosts and visitors - together, step by step, until they are sufficiently comfortable with each
other to break ranks, mingle with each other and together undertake the business of the hui, whether it be discussion,
celebrating a marriage or mourning the dead. The structure of the powhiri includes an exchange of speeches between hosts
and visitors. On most marae the tikanga direct that speeches in the powhiri should be delivered in the Maori language by
representative male kaumatua, for reasons I won't go into here, and speakers should concentrate on conveying greetings,
explaining their group's identity, and establishing links between the groups.
When the powhiri is transferred out of the marae setting into a public one or conducted on a marae for a non-Maori
organisation, it acquires an additional purpose, that of making a symbolic statement about the identity of the local,
regional or national community and the part Maori play therein. It also acquires a different audience, one whose members
in most cases do not understand or speak the Maori language. This presents the presiding kaumatua (both men and women)
with a dilemma. They feel that lapsing into English breaches the tapu of the powhiri, but adhering to the Maori language
rule means that most of those present do not appreciate the speeches, miss out on the information they supply, and
endure instead of enjoying the ceremony.
That unfortunately widens the gap between hosts and visitors instead of reducing it as the powhiri is meant to do.
Often kaumatua quietly disappear after they have fulfilled their ceremonial role, and the proceedings introduced by the
powhiri revert to monocultural Pakeha practice for the rest of the time. In such cases, the powhiri is a clip-on instead
of being an integral part of the whole.
These problems can be solved if the parties think about the issues and talk about them together. The trick is to work
out a compromise which enables Maori to fulfil the requirements of tikanga and non-Maori to understand what is going on,
so that staging the powhiri as part of public ceremonial achieves both its old and its new purposes.
Perhaps kaumatua reluctant to breach tapu by lapsing into English might look to earlier generations for guidance. Back
in the 1950s and 60s, on the northern marae I know best, kaumatua of the stature of Kingi Ihaka, Herepo Harawira, Mutu
Kapa and Simon Snowden gave high priority to ensuring that non-Maori visitors understood - and appreciated - what was
being said. Sometimes they sat besides the visitors and whispered a translation into their ears, sometimes they provided
a sentence by sentence translation during the speeches, most often they summed up the gist of their speeches in English
at the end. Mind you, their translations were sometimes more diplomatically phrased than the original statements, to the
amusement of the Maori speakers present! They were superb orators in both languages. Imitating their example would
result in greater not less appreciation of the Maori language and ceremonial on the part of the general public. It would
also help to restore the art of translation to the high status it once enjoyed.
There are occasions when nothing but a full-scale powhiri is appropriate, occasions when a scaled down, bare-bones
version is more suitable, and occasions when it is best to develop ceremonies tailored to the needs of particular
communities. In many places, much thought and effort are being put into developing ceremonies which provide for elements
of a variety of languages and cultures to be interwoven with the Maori and English strands. I like the pattern developed
by my old secondary school for its senior prizegivings. Proceedings begin with a karanga and speech of welcome in Maori
delivered by senior Maori students and complemented by a waiata from the school's kapa haka. After that the speeches and
presentations are broken into blocks by contributions from a selection (varied annually) of the school's many culture
groups, including the choir with a culturally varied repertoire.
For planners of ceremonies in search of inspiration, I suggest a close look at the 'flower ceremony' which is a feature
of Northland Maori weddings. The largest tier of the wedding cake is cut into pieces decorated with an artifical flower
or favour from the cake - hence the name. A kaumatua calls the names of the iwi and hapu present, including Ngati
Pakeha. As each name is called, a representative claims flower and cake, explains his or her connection with the group
named and the bridal couple, and sings a song. In 1973 I worked with Maori advisers to adapt this ceremony for the
opening session of a Pacific women's conference. When the President finished her speech of welcome, she called the names
of the countries represented; the chief delegate of each came forward, was presented with a small bouquet of flowers and
spoke to the assembly in her own language. This ceremony got the conference off to a good start by breaking the ice and
introducing people to each other in an enjoyable way. 14
When weaving elements of minority cultures into public ceremonial in this way it is wise - and only good manners – to
seek the approval and advice of the people to whom they belong.
The sharing of ideas and customary ceremonial practices for use in the public arena is one way of tying our peoples
together. Northland iwi created the flower ceremony in the 19th century when they adopted the wedding cake from British
settlers, along with wedding ceremonial, and grafted it on to the traditional way of distributing gifts to visitors.
They will retain it for their own purposes even if they share it with the rest of us.
When members from different cultural backgrounds encounter each other in this country of ours - for it is people not
cultures who meet - there is friction, inequality, misunderstanding and sometimes conflict, yes, but there is also
reciprocity, mutual stimulation and creativity, more than is commonly recognised.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of the arts, the fourth and last of the areas of common life I set out to
explore at the beginning of this lecture. In June last year ten of New Zealand's leading artists were presented with
inaugural Arts Foundation Icon Awards.15 According to the Chairman of the Arts Foundation Trustees, "These were New
Zealanders who really made an impact on the arts, our senior artists whose works have become part of our cultural
heritage." Four of the ten are heirs to two or more cultural traditions. Diggeress Te Kanawa represents those who take
the art forms of a minority to such heights of excellence that they become national treasures. Ralph Hotere, Milan
Mrkusich and Hone Tuwhare represent those who weave ideas, materials and expressive forms from diverse sources together
in creative ways.
Where once these four artists belonged to a small company of pioneers, now a veritable host follow in their wake. There
is not a field of the arts that has not been enriched by their contribution. In this, as in other ways, our artists are
far ahead of the rest of us in capitalising on our cultural diversity. A complete roll call is impossible: as it is, I
must confine myself to a few chosen examples to illustrate my points.
First, representing those whose voices are now stilled, I salute Arapera Kaa Blank, writer and poet, Harry Dansey,
writer, illustrator and cartoonist, Hirini Melbourne, songwriter, guitarist and expert on Maori music, and Dalvanius
Prime, whose electrifying production of Ngoi Pewhairangi's Poi E never ceases to thrill me.
Of those whose work to develop their own cultural tradition has become a matter of national pride, I nominate
Hekenukumai Busby. He played a major part in reviving the art of waka building and navigation, inspired and managed the
waka fleet that enthralled us all at Waitangi in 1990, and in double-hulled Te Aurere recreated his ancestors' epic
voyages across the Pacific.
Some artists belonging to one ethnic group have chosen to express themselves artistically in the medium of another.
This is notably the case in opera, where Joseph Le Malu and Deborah Wai Kapohe are currently making their mark. Richard
Nunns, a Pakeha, worked with the late Hirini Melbourne to recreate the making and playing of traditional Maori musical
instruments. The stone walls that beautify my home suburb in Auckland are the work of a company of Tongan stonemasons,
whose immigrant founder mastered the craft in New Zealand years after it was brought here by British immigrants. 16
Some artists have acted as interpreters between cultures. Margaret Orbell's magnificent translations and commentaries
on Maori stories and waiata open windows on the Maori world for those who do not know the Maori language. Michael King's
writing and television work in the 1970s helped greatly to educate Pakeha about the strengths of contemporary Maori
culture. Pakeha poet Glenn Colquhoun celebrates both Maori and Pakeha ways of being and the aroha that demolishes the
barriers between them.
Many artists have woven elements of different cultures together so skilfully that what they produce is a 'new work'
that belongs to and is appreciated by the nation as a whole. Amelia Batistich, Patricia Grace, Witi Ihimaera and Albert
Wendt have been included in the roll-call of acclaimed New Zealand writers for a quarter of a century. Playwrights Briar
Grace Smith, Hone Kouka, Robert Matisoo (of Naked Samoans) and Jacob Rajan (of Krishna's Dairy) have given us dramas
grounded in their own cultures which draw us in because they explore universal human themes. In the visual arts the
names of Cliff Whiting, Maureen Lander, Michael Parekowhai and Shane Cotton have not only national but international
resonance. Taiaroa Royal, Neil Ieremaia and Black Grace figure prominently in the world of New Zealand dance, and any
list of New Zealand songwriters would be incomplete without the names of Dean Hapeta, Che Fu, King Kapisi and
Mahinarangi Tocker, whose music celebrates both her Maori and her Jewish heritages.
One of the most exciting developments of recent years has been the creative encounter of groups from different
traditions. I remember with great pleasure the Wellington production Taki Toru which presented Maori, Scots and Irish
dancers in an integrated programme. Last year saw a courtship, if not quite a marriage, between kapa haka Te Matarae I
Orehu and the Royal New Zealand Ballet in Ihi Frenzy. The group Nesian Mystik is made up of five young men from
different parts of Polynesia whose transformation of imported music and dance genres speaks to and for younger New
Zealanders of varied ethnic background. And then of course there is Whalerider, the product of an exchange of gifts
between a Pakeha director and film crew on the one hand and a whole Maori community on the other.
The road to national recognition has been anything but easy for those I have named and those they represent. The
general public is now becoming more appreciative of artists who weave cultural heritages together - as long as they do
so in English. Songwriters who promote the language by composing in Maori, as Hinewehi Mohi and Moana Maniapoto do so
beautifully, have complained of the difficulty of getting exposure in mainstream media in New Zealand. What I have seen
and heard on TV and radio recently leads me to hope that this situation too is improving.
But I cannot help wondering why we have yet to see a general screening of that ultimate example of the weaving together
of treasures from two cultures, Don Selwyn's film of Pei Te Hurinui's translation into classical Maori of William
Shakespeare's A_Merchant of Venice. In a rave review, critic Peter Calder wrote that Selwyn's 'highly triumphant', 'epic
rendering' is 'vibrantly alive to the 'unmistakable resonances the play has for a modern audience here and abroad'. 17
Actor Waihoroi Shortland gave an unforgettable and award winning performance as Hairoka (Shylock). Selwyn is currently
overseas showing the film to American student audiences. Surely ours are mature enough to appreciate it?
To conclude, let me return to the metaphor of the taura whiri.
Early in this lecture, I emphasised that nation-building, like rope-making, involves skill, co-operation and continuous
hard work. As a nation we are at last beginning to recognise the enrichment and strength that comes from weaving many
diverse strands together.
But the task of creating a unique national identity is an on-going one. In working to forge a unique national identity,
let us concentrate on achieving the inclusion of all our ethnic groups, large and small, celebrating our diversity
instead of homogenising all that richness and fostering positive interaction, gift exchange and cross fertilisation,
instead of calls to or accusations of separatism and division.
At Waitangi on 6 February 1840, Colenso tells us, Lieutenant Governor Hobson said to each rangatira who signed the
Treaty: 'He iwi tahi tatou'. Presumably he was coached by somebody, probably Henry Williams. Colenso translated this
into English as 'We are now one people'. In doing so, he overlooked three subtle points. First, the word 'iwi' means
'nation' as well as 'people'. Secondly, if Hobson meant 'one people' he should have said 'he iwi kotahi'; 'tahi' without
the prefix 'ko' means 'together'. Thirdly, the last word, 'tatou', certainly means the first person plural, 'we/us', but
it is a special form, one without an equivalent in English. Use of 'tatou' signals the fact that the 'we' in question
comprises two or more distinct groups. This short sentence in Maori packs in a lot of meaning. A fuller English
translation would be: 'We two peoples together make a nation.' 'He iwi tahi tatou' still has application in today's
world, but now we can give it a wider interpretation: 'We many peoples together make a nation.'
Kati ra, no reira, tena koutou, tena ra tatou katoa.
I acknowledge with gratitude help received in connection with this Lecture from Te Kohu Douglas and Mark Robertson Shaw
of The F.I.R.S.T. Foundation [www.firstfound.org], from Cliff and Dean Whiting for (The Rope of People), from John
Miller (for photographs), and from Shane Jones, Merimeri Penfold and Ian Bassett for comments on early drafts.
Waitangi Rua Rautau kauhau is presented by
New Zealand Maori Council
Radio New Zealand
The F.I.R.S.T. Foundation
1 Wellington's Anniversary Day fell on 22 January in 1990. The tall ships Anna Rosa and Anna Kristina represented the
immigrant ships Auroa and Helena. The waka were Te Aniwaniwa with 28 paddlers and Te Raukuara with 22. The waka were
built for the re-enactment at Waiwhetu Marae under the direction of master carver Rangi Hetet.
2 'The Rope of Peoples' was published on the cover of the AnnualReport of the Historic Places Trust for 1990
3 For the 2001 Census the Department of Statistics invited respondents to identify themselves as belonging to up to
three 'ethnic groups'. The Tables in the Ethnic Groups volume of the Census record the count of responses, not persons.
As a result, the percentages given for the various ethnic groups listed add up to more than 100% and the numbers given
for each main ethnic group include some persons also listed under other headings. It could be argued that the ethnic
groups identified by the Census should more accurately be described as categories as they are based on individual
declarations of ethnic group membership and should not be taken as evidence of collective identity.
4 See also: Orsman, H.W. (ed.), The Dictionary of New Zealand English, Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1997: 567-69,
and Metge, Joan, Te Kohao o Te Ngira: Culture and Learning, Wellington: Learning Media 1990: 13-15
5 This use of 'kai-hautu' for the Treaty is metaphorical. Maori often use the word 'kai-hautu' metaphorically as a
title for the director of a Maori organisation.
6 The fullest account is by CMS Missionary printer William Colenso: The Authentic and Genuine History of the Signing of
the Treaty of Waitangi, Reprint published by Capper Press, Christchurch, in 1971. Also available at
http://www.waitangi.com/colenso/colhisl.html. See also Orange, Claudia, The Treaty of Waitangi, Wellington: Allen & Unwin/ Port Nicholson Press, 1987, especially Chapter 3, or Orange, Claudia, The Story of a Treaty, Wellington: Allen
and Unwin Press/ Port Nicholson Press, 1989.
7 It was the Maori text of the Treaty that was signed by the Maori chiefs nearly everywhere in the country in 1840. See
Orange, Claudia, The Treaty of Waitangi, 1987:60-91.
8 . The word 'kaumatua' has no in-built indication of gender. In the plural it includes both men and women. Some tribes
use the singular form to refer to a male kaumatua and use 'kuia' for a female one. Other tribes use 'kaumatua' as the
generic term, 'koroua' for a male kaumatua and kuia for a female one.
9 See Metge, Joan, New Growth From Old: The Whanau in the Modern World, Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1995,
especially chapters 3 and 4: 51-78
10 See Metge, Joan, ‘Returning the Gift: Utu in Inter-group Relations’. Journal of the Polynesian Society, Volume 111,
(4) 2002: 311-38.
11 ‘Tuituia’ is the passive form of the verb ‘tuitui’, used as an imperative. Tuitui is the word used (for example) for
lacing up shoes and for lashing the topstrakes to the hull of a canoe.
12 Other reasons for learning the Maori language? It is the language of the tangata whenua, the indigenous inhabitants:
one does not have to go overseas to find fluent speakers to talk to. Everyone who has done their O.E. remembers drawing
on memories of haka and actions-songs to establish their national identity – and improvising wildly when memory failed.
Maori and their language deserve better. Maori is an excellent springboard for learning other Pacific, including Asian,
languages, because the sounds, grammar and cultural underpinnings of the Maori language are closer to them than those of
13 See Metge, Joan, The Maoris of New Zealand: Rautahi, (Revised Edition) London, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1976:
14 For a discussion of ‘Appreciation Without Appropriation’ see Metge, Joan, New Growth from Old: The Whanau in the
Modern World, 1995: 309-12
15 New Zealand Herald, 26.6.03
16 Onehunga Stonemason Ltd., under the direction of Sione Katoa who settled in New Zealand in 1987.
17 New Zealand Herald, 19.2.02.