Performing with the Whanau Group: My Matariki Experience

6 07 2012

Item’s I have learned today

Matariki – Is the celebration of the Māori new year.  Matariki is a cluster of seven stars known as Pleiades that rises once a year (on the Māori new year)

Whānau- Family (In Māori)

the fam

the fam

As most of you know, I have only had one job while I have been in New Zealand, working at Land Information New Zealand.  A few months ago, one of my friends at work asked if I could help her with some of the coordination of the Whānau Group.

The Whānau Group is involved in promoting awareness of all things Māori at LINZ (Land Information New Zealand).  Now being the organising freak that I am (meaning I enjoy it), I said yes,  but I must confess that I was a little bit hesitant.  If you know anything about me, you know that I am not the best at foreign languages or pronunciation.  Half the time I can’t even speak english correctly!  All of a sudden I found myself volunteering to help organise and promote things that I don’t really know anything about.  I was worried about not only mispronunciating Māori words but also in my ignorance saying or doing something that could be offensive as I also know very little about the culture.

my family

Now, one of the things I love the most about New Zealand, is some of the efforts made to integrate Māori culture.  Every government department is written in English and then in Māori, the meeting rooms at LINZ all have Māori names,  when we moved offices, the day began with a tuwheratanga or opening of the space where all of our meeting rooms were blessed, when our Chief Executive changed agencies and left LINZ, we had a poroporoaki (farewell)  for him, and the list goes on.  I am by now means saying that Māori relations are perfect and there is no room for improvement, I just have really enjoyed being around the steps that have happened so far.  Coming from the US, it is a very unique experience for me to be around.

But I am getting slightly off track, looping this all back to Whānau Group, I was happy to get involved, but worried about some how not doing something right.

In celebration of Matariki, the Whānau Group agreed to host the fortnightly drinks at work called FEST (Friday Evening Social Time… LINZ also loves the use of their acronyms).  With the hosting of FEST, the group also volunteered to preform… oh boy.

Then came the waiata (Māori songs) practices… insert another oh boy.  The problem is.. I am definitely not Mariah Carey.  I mean, I can keep a tune, I don’t go off key, but it isn’t necessarily anything that you want to hear.  Now throw in the fact that I am singing in a completely different language and having to learn all sorts of  new action moves?  Lets just say I became very close friends with the you tube clips of the waiatas that we would be preforming.

It has been an interesting last few weeks.  I start off by just being  nervous about my involvement with the Whānau Group, now all of a sudden I am going to preform in front of the company? Uh…(gulp).  The ironic part of it all, is that  I used to love performing back when I was in high school.  I seem to have sort of outgrown that phase, the thought of doing anything in front of an audience freaks me out, let alone new material, new languages, and new moves.

The point of all this blabbering though, is that I did it, or more importantly the Whānau Group did it and it was actually a lot of fun. Of course I was incredibly nervous, and had woken up at 7am to practice in front of my mirror (a bit ridiculous.. I know, lets just erase that mental image right about now). I also some how magically got bumped up to the front row literally right before the performance started.  But, I didn’t forget the words, or the actions, and the group sounded amazing. Afterwords it was a great feeling knowing that we all came together and pulled it all of, from blacking out a huge meeting room, to drawing constellations on the walls, to putting up fairy lights (christmas lights), creating a stage, chopping vegetables and preparing some amazing kai (food).  It was a job (and performance) well done.  And let me just add for the record that my nerves were INCREDIBLY happy once it was all over.

Becoming involved in the Whānau group has been an incredible experience, it has not only allowed me to learn a bit more about Māori culture  it also really kind of sort of has started to feel like a family which for someone like me, who is a million miles away from my actual family is exactly what is needed.



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