Every Sunday Te Kainga Māori Catholic Marae in Kilbirnie celebrates the Catholic Mass in a uniquely Māori way. The mass incorporates into its liturgy Te Reo Māori, waiata and more recently Taonga Puoro or Māori musical instruments. In days of old, according to a kaitiaki or guardian of Te Kainga, Henare Walmsley, Taonga Puoro were used extensively by Māori tohunga in ceremonial rites.
Today only a few original Māori instruments remain and are locked away in museums throughout the world. It is only now through the dedication of a few musicians, crafts people and writers that Taonga Puoro is in its revival and these instruments are being replicated.
A few of those sounds or voices (as we would prefer to say) survive at Te Kainga. These are the voices of our past. As part of the ceremonial opening the large conch shell or putatara heralds the start of the mass. Another Māori instrument called the purerehua (butterfly) or bullroarer summons the spirits of our ancestors to look over us – an acknowledgement of those who have passed before us. The eerie voice of the purerehua is remarkably similar to the flutter of butterflies as the whirring evokes the spirits of a bygone era.
Interestingly origins of the blown conch shell spread throughout the world through many cultures. In Greek mythology, Neptune, god of the seas, blew a conch to summon up or calm the seas. Māori similarly have the same association with their mythological gods or atua, [guardians].
However it was a large conch (Triton) shell that Fr Philip Cody SM brought back from Rarotonga that started the journey of Taonga Puoro at Te Kainga. Henare lashed a wooden mouthpiece (mangai) to the conch and the voices of the sea sang from a new putatara. A famous Māori whakatauki (proverb): ‘E kore au e ngaro he kakano i ruia mai a Rangiatea’ which translates as ‘I will never be lost, the seed which was sown from Rangiatea’.
It is a strange coincidence that the origin of this putatara was born of Rangiatea, a small village in Rarotonga, and a spiritual rendezvous for many migratory waka from Hawaiiki and Aotearoa in years of old.
After three years Henare has learnt to make and play Māori instruments. Now, along with fellow devotees to Taonga Puoro, they are passing down the treasured knowledge to others. Recently a highly successful two-day wananga (school of learning) was held at Te Kainga with about 15 people in attendance. The session attracted teachers, crafts people, students and musicians wanting to experience something unique. Similar wananga are planned for later in the year.
If you would like to know more about Taonga Puoro please call Henare Walmsley on 9768380 or call in. You will be very welcome to join us at mass at to Te Kainga Marae, 33 Mahora Street, Sundays 11:00am. Up and coming Taonga Puoro wananga will be posted with Wel-com also.