By: Connor Glasset, Secondary Education Major, Champlain College
The International Noho Marae paper (course) is one of the most highly sought after classes in the AUT catalogue amongst international students. Over the course of the semester, this paper explores Maori culture and what it means to be Maori in today’s society. The paper is unique in that the majority of the learning about Maori culture is experiential. For one weekend, international students and Maori professors and volunteers come together to learn, hands-on, some aspects of Maori identity. AUT’s International Noho Marae paper along with the weekend experience is the only one of it’s kind in the entirety of New Zealand.
This semester marked the 30th International Noho Marae, and I was lucky enough to experience it. In total we were 74 students representing 14 different countries. In addition, there was the Maori staff and volunteers with their families, who served as our teachers for the weekend. Also, because this Noho, the 30th of its kind, was such a landmark for the university, alumni were invited to come home, back to Auckland, to assist with this special weekend.
The weekend began on Friday evening, with a traditional welcoming ceremony called a Powhiri. First, we waited outside the gates of the marae until we were summoned by a challenge made by one of the marae’s warriors. Having accepted the challenge we were allowed entrance to the marae. Next, we were slowly called into the whare, meeting house, by song. The elders, in this case Professor Jason King and Dean of Maori and Indigenous Development, Pare Keiha, welcomed everyone in attendance and asked us all to open our hearts and minds to the weekend’s happenings and teachings in order to enjoy and learn to the maximum extent. After we were invited to join in the weekend festivities, we moved to the wharekai, eating-house. The meal was a potluck, prepared by the international students, of the traditional or common dishes of each country. Ali Sousa and I made possibly the best spinach artichoke dip known to man; naturally, it was a crowd favorite. At dinner, we learned the first of many lessons: Don’t stop eating when you’re full, stop eating when you’re tired. Now that is a mantra I can get behind completely.
On Saturday, we reconvened at breakfast. Once again, making sure to pack on the carbs for a long day of experiential learning. Only after we all surpassed the point of over consumption, it was time for tititorea. Tititorea, or the stick game, is a two person game involving four wooden dowels, an extremely catchy Maori tune, heaps of hand-eye coordination and innumerable mulligans. At the start each partner has their own set of wooden dowels. Both partners tap the dowels on the ground twice and then together once before tossing them to their partner one at a time. For example, right hand to right hand exchange followed by a lefthand to left hand exchange. This exchange is where the hand-eye coordination came in as both partners needed to release their dowel at the same time and then catch their partner’s. Once we got that down, and believe me, we all had to work at it a while, we moved on to the chorus and accompanying motions.
For the chorus, one partner had to pass both of their sticks together while the other partner passed theirs apart, outside of the partner’s two. In essence one partner was passing theirs in the middle and the other, on the outside. I think it would be fair to say that we were only semi-successful and that came after a lot of mess-ups, laughter, and observing of others to steal their method. Continue reading