Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Shoot Out - Town Plaza

This past week hasn't been my best ever.  The weather has been hot and very, very humid.  I don't mind a bit of heat but I don't like humidity.  And I haven't been feeling myself, been a bit out of sorts really.  Probably not drinking enough water. 

Not being in a good frame of mind, every time I thought about this week's topic I had a brain freeze because there is no town plaza around here.  Finally this morning driving to work thinking, "It's Friday.  Think, girl, think",  I was hit with an inspiration.  Let's not quibble about what constitutes inspiration.

A polytechnic college is a community.  Choosing the words that suit my purpose from Redlan's description, we have places at the polytech where crowds gather to celebrate special occasions. A small marae (maori meeting house) stands at the entrance to the polytech and it is here that people gather on special occasions. 

On Monday, we had the first day of the new semester and an Orientation Day for new students.  However, we knew there would be more people than the marae can accommodate so an area was set up in the car park for the powhiri (welcoming ceremony) and that area became, to all intents and purposes, the marae.

 I'm not going to try to explain the protocols because they are quite complicated.  Just share with you a series of photos taken at the powhiri.  Above, the karanga, a unique form of female oratory, in which the high pitched voices of women from both sides call to each other to exchange information to begin to establish intent and the purpose of the visit.

 The crowd comes slowly forward

Whaikōrero or formal speech making follows the karanga:

A waiata or song is sung after each whaikōrero by the group the orator represents. It is common to hear traditional waiata during pōwhiri. Above is the tangata whenua (home people).  Below gathered opposite them, and a little apart, are the new students.

After all the speech making is done with, the visitors come forward across the space separating the two groups to shake hands and hongi with the tangata whenua (home people).  The traditional hongi, the pressing of noses, signifies the mingling together of the sacred breath of life, and the two sides become one.  In this case, the new students and the polytech.  However, most Maori elders will greet their visitors in a manner that the visitor feels comfortable with. 
The sharing of food signifies the end of the powhiri.

Then, if you are a student and don't have a class, you can lay under a tree and contemplate your future.  Staff, like me, had to go back to work!

I'm happy now.  So, we don't have a town plaza!  We do have our own unique gathering places.  To check out other's photos just visit here.


  1. Hi Pauline,

    My husband says John Key should pay me for promoting New Zealand. Now there are two of us ambassadors. You have done a great job, (paki paki) to educate our unique customs to the world.

    You are right about the muggy weather. When i came home, I wore my tube sarong. I thought I could wear it only in Singapore and Australia.

  2. Sounds like we have similar weather, even though it rained for a few minutes, the heat is practically unbearable! and what could make it worst? I'm having my hot flashes!

    I just love the last picture, a very contrasting picture. One has to go somewhere, probably with lots of work/study to do, while the other is having a good break!

  3. What a wonderful way of interpreting the subjct and putting the ceremony across.

  4. You hit it on the nose! Before time caught up to me and I gave up on the shoot, I had thought about plaza being any public place where people go. Your people-filled shots are perfect.

  5. does it make any sense that the muggier it is the more water you need to drink? but is true humans are just not like orchids that the more humidity there is the less moisture they need - they drink straight from the air.
    I think you met the topic head on - you always do you know.... I loved the commentary and the mingling of local words - I love it.

  6. Fascinating, Pauline. I love learning about the customs of different countries. I'm very glad you were "inspired" to post this.

  7. This was a great approach, Pauline. Togetherness, all of the faces. Very nice.

    I understand about the humidity...although, here in little old Vermont, we don't experience to many lengthy days of it. Right now, we're still feeling a bite of snow :)

  8. This was nice, I enjoy seeing and reading about other cultures. And I can understand the humidity. I live in Central Florida and from June to September we have 90-95 degrees with 100% humidity :)

  9. Very nice job with what is absolutely a town plaza. I wonder if I could get used to nose-rubbing; I don't know. But I loved reading about it!

  10. The photos I took was on a midday, while most people are at work, and kids in school, that's why it look empty. If there are people around, they are hanging around under the sheltered area, as it's too hot to be under the sun here!

  11. WOW! this is wonderful - i think about new student orientation around here...nowhere near as meaningful or welcoming. this is definitely a community meeting place - thank you for sharing this in detail!

  12. I really loved the last photo--archetypal of what you might see at any college campus.

  13. That was so completely different than what I expected - and so much more interesting. I wonder if there is a link between a NZ powiri and a Canadian pow wow.

  14. Love that last photo Pauline - grab a cold drink, throw your sandles off, lean back on your bag and relax under the shade of a tree.

  15. I felt like I just attended class. Great info and quite interesting.


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