Powhiri at Ōtākou Marae

On Saturday 15th September 2018, representatives of Dunedin’s Chinese community were invited to a powhiri at the nearby Ōtākou marae on the Otago peninsular. The representatives were Dr. James Ng as poua, Eva Ng as taua, Malcolm Wong, Teresa Chan, Daniel Pu, Madam Xu Weidi, Annie Snow as interpreter, Peter Chin, Zhang Hu, Joe Jiang, and Linus Chin.

Additional attendees were the Chinese Consul general and his associates as well as the visiting Yu Garden delegation from Shanghai.

Hosting us were Ōtākou manawhenua.

Ōtākou is “home” to Waitaha, Rapuwai, Kati Hawea and Kati Mamoe; where in the early 19th century, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Māmoe and Waitaha had blended into a single tribal entity. 

Of significant importance is Ōtākou marae was one of the places where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. Those who signed were descended from ancestors of all three tribes.

Significantly the land where the Dunedin Chinese Garden is sited was blessed by Ōtākou and the trigger for this powhiri, with a theme of “mana to mana or people to people”, was the Dunedin Chinese Gardens 10th Birthday celebrations where the people of Ōtākou gifted the Dunedin Chinese Garden Trust a waiata.

On arriving at the marae, we waited at the gate until invited onto the grounds with a welcome where we entered the marae and proceeded into the wharenui (meeting house). Once inside and seated the powhiri began with kaumatua Edward Ellison’s mihi followed by a waiata to support his mihi.

Poua Dr James Ng replied where he greeted the home people, the land, the ancestors on both sides, and addressed the reason why we had come together. After Dr Ng’s mihi the DCC waiata group supported us with the Dunedin Chinese Gardens Trust’s new waiata. We then presented the koha or gifts to the marae.Following the hongi, the powhiri formally ended and we began the korero which is a less formal meeting, starting with a mihi by Malcolm Wong. Edward Ellison spoke again to introduce the Maori world view and talk about pounamu as taoka. As part of the manawhenua poroporoaki they would also like to koha a piece of pounamu to sit in Lan Yuan and a piece of ceramic art to go back to Yu Yuan.

Lunch followed with entertainment provided by the youth and other members of the marae. Then we said our goodbyes and headed to Dunedin.

In my limited experience, powhiri are very emotional in part because the themes are of importance and there is a sense of history, protocol, and mana to the proceedings. In this instance the marae has acknowledged Chinese as an early settlor and explained some of the history of their people and how they came to live and claim Ōtākou as their home and site of their marae. I feel privileged to have attended on behalf of OSCA.