It was an incredible sight to witness. Kiingi Tuuheitia Pootatau Te Wherowhero VII, having just delivered his annual Koroneihana address, stand up at Tuurangawaewae Marae as the rain fell from heaven and lead out on the haka ‘He Oranga Mai’ flanked by his eldest daughter Ngaawai Hono I Te Poo Paki and his wife Makau Ariki Atawhai, regal and dressed in royal blue, standing side by side along with a number of other whaanau members including the King’s brother, Maharaia Paki, in a powerful display of unity.
Thousands of Kiingitanga supporters joined in, in person and online as it was live streamed across the world. This anthem of unity reverberated all throughout the paa, and indeed kotahitanga was one of the main themes at this year’s Koroneihana, and this anthem rang out and was evident in much of the koorero that flowed from the paepae over the six days of celebration for the 12th anniversary of the ascension of our Maaori King.
The photo that was taken of this moment was from the last day of Koroneihana and has been hailed as the second most iconic photograph of the year, next to the photo of the King leading the haka at the K160 festival. Both photos taken by Erica Sinclair capture the passion and fortitude of the King, with the latter displaying his love for people, his whaanau, his dedication to the role. It speaks of a solidarity that conveys a deep sense of pride for all those who are loyal to the Kiingitanga.
After all, this great sense of solidarity, legacy and loyalty to the cause has kept the Kiingitanga together for 160 years, and the King made mention of this when he said, “Notwithstanding the many challenges it has faced, the Kiingitanga still remains a significant force 160 years on. The bloodline of Te Wherowhero remains and is not under threat of disappearing. The legacy of Te Wherowhero remains and is getting stronger.”
The King then continued his address by saying, “Finally, I want to thank my people who, year after year, make this event possible. You are what the Kiingitanga is about…” These last seven words give you an insight into how an event like Koroneihana is so successful. The people really do get stuck in, roll up their sleeves, don their gumboots and do the mahi –the Maintenance crew from Hopuhopu led by the remarkable Koro Tumate Mahuta are a great example of this extraordinary service.
Year after year Koro Tumate and his dedicated band of kaimahi are at work behind the scenes. They don’t consider 4am starts anything to write home about, they’ve been doing it for as long as they can remember – on site erecting marquees, on call 24/7 for everything from picking up rubbish to fixing leaks. It is this loyalty from the people that keeps the Kiingitanga so strong. It is this kind of service that has earned Koro Tumate and people like him the reputation of being the backbone of the Kiingitanga, and it’s this show of unity in action that explains why the Kiingitanga is flourishing in 2018 and why it will flourish in the years to come.
And people came from far and wide to celebrate at Koroneihana, including the King of Tonga (Tupou VI), the High Commissioner of the UK and the Ambassador of Switzerland. Crown Maaori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis, his Labour Party colleague Peeni Henare, National Party Leader Simon Bridges and National’s Coromandel MP Scott Simpson were also in attendance at Tuurangawaewae Marae.
Rob Ruha and Ria Hall launched their Behind the Lines national tour at Koroneihana, and the people were blessed by this duet’s beautiful singing. The brass band Ngaa Reo o Ratana also delivered wonderful musicality as well as Ngaa Kapahaka o te Waka o Tainui. A great highlight was the presence of Te Kaahui Rangatahi. Staff in the K160 merchandise tent were run off their feet selling hoodies with the beautiful K160 emblem designed by the Korotangi Paki and the Tiitii tent was incredibly popular.
There were many great highlights at this year’s Koroneihana, from having the opportunity to solemnly remember the passing of loved ones to celebrating the life accomplishments of great leaders who have gone before us, such as Princess Te Puea. Ngaa Waka Tauaa o Tainui Exhibition was open daily during Koroneihana and showcased the videos Mana Waka and Taheretikitiki – Making a Maaori War Canoe in celebration of two of our waka tauaa, Tuumanako and Rangatahi, turning 80 this year. They were the first waka tauaa commissioned by Princess Te Puea.