In the early hours of the 10th May the official opening ceremony for our new Collaborative Learning space, ‘Ngātahi’, took place.
The Kapa Haka boys of SBHS had a Noho Kura (Stay over on site) in Te Oraka (our resident Wharenui) the night before to prepare and solidify the performance that we had to execute the following morning. Over the period of the night we formally introduced ourselves (Mihimihi), Matua Te Rau explained the procedure of the Whakatuwheratanga (Opening Ceremony) and we rehearsed our selection of Waiata (songs) and Haka.
Two waiata were organised for the performance – a well-known hymn called ‘He Hōnore’; which is traditionally sung after Karakia (ritual incantations) and a second Waiata-ā-ringa (action song) called Puari Te Pā, written and choreographed by Matua Te Rau and performed as a Waiata Ngahau (song of entertainment and celebration). We also had the opportunity to perform two haka – our school Haka, ‘Oraka’ and a new haka, ‘Te Pōkai Tara o Oraka’ composed by Matua Te Rau and co-choreographed by Matua Te Rau and one of our Kapa Haka members, Devante Wawatai.
Early dawn saw us rise to the smell of a cooked breakfast wafting out of the Kāuta (kitchen). Matua Te Rau, Mr Ambrose and a select group of boys had prepared a great Hākari (feast) to give us the fuel we needed for this most important event. Following our hearty meal, we dressed in our school uniforms, ensuring we were immaculate from head to toe, and had a final run through our responsibilities.
When we arrived outside Ngātahi, we were met by Mr Laurenson (our principal), Mr Grocott (our deputy principal), Matua Justin Tipa of Ngāi Tahu, who was our guest Tohunga (expert) conducting the appropriate karakia, and a large amount of other senior staff and Shirley Whānau. It was great to see all those present – He mea whakamana te kaupapa e te hunga tautoko! Before the ceremony commenced, Matua Te Rau and Matua Justin explained the process. We were to follow Matua Justin inside while he performed the karakia, circling the interior walls of the building while touching the walls as we walked – this action imbued the building with our Mauri (life principle) and made it officially a part of our Tūrangawaewae - our Place to Stand.
To begin the ceremony the Kapa Haka boys stood before Ngātahi, facing the congregation, and performed our first haka – Te Pōkai Tara o Oraka. We were amped and nervous at the same time! This was to be our first official performance since Matua Te Rau had taken over as Kapa Haka tutor at the beginning of the year. Devante Wawatai led the haka and his mana and execution of the leading commands had us performing to our utmost from the very first word. After the haka, Matua Justin launched into his karakia. We filed into Ngātahi, following close behind, remembering to touch the walls as we walked around the interior of the building. Once the karakia had been completed, we sung our first waiata, ‘He Hōnore’, in support of the karakia Matua Justin had just recited. After this, Mr Laurenson stood and addressed the people attending. He began his Whaikōrero (formal speech) in Te Reo, linking the local and culturally significant landmarks of Ngāi Tūāhuriri (Hapū of Ngāi Tahu and the local Mana Whenua). He then explained the meaning of the name ‘Ngātahi’ - together, as one, in unison. Ngātahi was built as a collaborative modern learning environment in preparation for our shift in 2019 to our new site in North New Brighton.
Once Mr Laurenson had finished his inspirational and informative speech, the Haka boys performed the action song, Puari Te Pā as a Waiata Kīnaki (Support item), followed immediately after with our school haka, ‘Oraka’. The adrenaline pumping through us at the time caused the tempo of our haka to increase, but it also gave us the ihi, the wehi and the wana to go all out!
Once our performance had finished, the Manuhiri (Guests) were invited to partake in some refreshments. During this time and later, I received many positive comments from staff, students and parents about how we looked so happy performing and that we performed with a sense of pride and mana.
I must agree, it was an awesome and memorable experience for us all.
By QeyLoux Hakaria