Landscape in origins and culture…

Stone waka guard the Paa at Church Bay, still waiting

“Basis of language, basis of culture, basis of life…turanga o te huruhuru, ano te turanga o te ora; te tiki, te hine, te tamahine… Under the veil of stars, least the white tipped feather should fall from the maidens hair, stone waka guard the pa with all the warrior of that world there…”

Korero o kuia a tohunga (conversations with wise maori woman)

Often in the process of land use, we shape the land and cause adjustments that may already exist in nature. This is not a new concept, land shaping techniques have existed for centuries, ancient Mayan, Aztec, Inuit, Greek, Arabian, etc; we hear about these people’s at school- making oasis and palaces out of sand or ice, terracing fertile hillsides for potato or yam, sculpting decorative harbors out of stone…

When we think of Māori, in terms of land use, do we often think of their ancient structures? What is an ancient Māori structure??? We need to look at the people, to look at the culture, to appreciate the life of the Māori beginning to end to understand that.

We begin our journey as Māori scholars at this point, te pepe – baby moths; maybe we will imerge pepetuna or maybe just tuna, hiding our baby parts under a thicker skin and seaweed cloaks, preferring the ocean to the trees, damp grasses, luke-warm aerated muds full of shellfish, streams full of koura. Our ocean is our sky after all, the children of the sea just prefer to be closer to their mother …

Then we start to ask- How can the sky be the ocean? What does this have to do with gardening? Why is this in a blog? What does this even have to do with me? … In Hawaii- a land of chiefs and assessments that commonly result in life or death, we had our mouths bound so we couldn’t steal the answers of others. ‘It would be wise to start asking before you get there then’ thought the Māori of Nui Tireni, Māori of Aotearoa, and Māori of Moananui. Cryptic is the Māori.

ASK… COMMUNICATE…LANGUAGE…this starts at home, this starts with your family, this starts with your immediate environment. An innate ability, communication is vital to every system, every people, even to Ao, even past the universe boundaries… Ask your neighbor, ask your mother, ask a passerby. If you can’t find answers in your own people, ask the environment, ask a tree, ask an ant, ask a bird. Communication is not always what we expect, but every master had to learn a new language to communicate with everytime he encountered a new people, land or art. The art, or mastery, of any land shouldn’t have to be spelled out to the master, nor to those ready to learn.  

Native flowers in a Paa meadow overlooking the stone waka is tapu or forbidden to outsiders..

So why do we need do we need to be told then? ‘Well, you asked’ … Messages are also carried and passed on; land, air, water, can also be a bit like a message or a treasure or a heirloom, to pass on to another. If I told you I waited to hear a migratory bird land and scream at his brother while his daughter stole his nesting spot, instead of taking a gold lined purse via limo to a VIP night club as my weekend out, you might take more notice – of the gold purse, or the limo, or the VIP’s… these are your birds, your communication lines and chiefs. Just like land, they can be stolen, just like water they can dry up and disappear, just like messages they can become muddled whispers.

A Māori of any origin will ask you this plain question- how will your chief ‘Gold Purse’ feed you when he/she doesnt possess legs? How will your messenger ‘Chief Limo’ make it to a meeting to give the message when he/she has no gas or no tyres? … moving forward 99 metaphorical Maori scholar questions, we get to the hundredth – ‘ When you have nothing left and the time comes to eat your chief, how will he/she taste? Will he/she nourish you or smash your teeth? Will you be able to take that chief off of the table of nothing left and use them to win the war for your own life or your peoples lives? Do not forget to ask question number 4, ‘What is a war?’ … 

And so you start to learn the basics of what shapes our land- if our ancestors don’t show us, you only need to find the path of the master to start learning. (Yes, you probably should be asking where exactly that path starts about now…) 

Push the chiefs button to watch as Māori take it to the global garden

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