The long-term plans to have a fully carved ki-o-rahi field in Waitangi came to fruition on Saturday, February 2, at the official opening of a new facility which was attended by local dignitaries, artists and dedicated exponents of the traditional Maori ball game.
Kaumatua Wiremu Wiremu unveiled and blessed the seven poupou (carved posts) surrounding the field and the tupuwaru (rock that emanates a spiritual essence) in the middle of the field, while Ki-o-rahi Akotanga Iho president Harko Brown, Mayor Wayne Brown, sculptor Chris Booth and Waitangi National Trust CEO Greg McManus spoke during the opening of the field which will be known as Te Atarauarangihaeata (shadows of the first light). Afterwards, Brown noted the venue will be used for more than just the game.
"The philosophy around ki-o-rahi is based on old cultural traditions that include activities like kite flying and flax weaving and also has a strong emphasis on community service," said Brown, adding thatt the field's seven poupou, traditionally known as pou-matai-whetu ('posts in which stars are visible'), were carved at the Moerewa carving school under the guidance of Wiremu Wiremu and decorated by seven foundation schools, Raumanga Kohanga Reo, Paihia Primary School, Opua Primary School, Kawakawa Primary School, Tikipunga High School, Northland College and Taipa Area School.
The ki-o-rahi field has come together as a partnership between the Waitangi National Trust, the Ki-o-rahi Akotanga Iho (whom Brown described as the ambassadors of ki-o-rahi) and the Far North District Council.
Far North Mayor Wayne Brown paid tribute to Harko Brown, saying he was an active and positive community board member whose leadership and initiative had resulted in a fantastic sports and cultural facility for the district.
Shortly after the above ceremony, the 2013 Iwi Bowl was played on nearby fields (with Te Atarauarangihaeata not quite complete). A report from this tournament featured in last Tuesday's Age and images from the games can be viewed on the Age website.
Ki-o-rahi features a round woven flax ball and is played on a circular field by teams of eight. Teams traditionally comprise four females and four males. Passing, catching and tackling are important ingredients of the game.
Ki-o-rahi is believed to pre-date rugby in New Zealand and is currently undergoing a major resurgence across the country. New Zealand teams have recently toured France, Italy, Germany, Poland and England. It first attracted international interest through the 28th Maori Battalion which introduced the sport to Europe during World War II.