It is morning of the day that I am supposed to meet my contact Jade and the other boys and men that will take part of the Easter Wananga at the Te Awhitu Estate in Taumutu New Zealand. And I still don´t know where I have to be and when. So I´m waiting for Jade´s call.

I contacted Jade months ago when I decided that I was going to go on a holiday to New Zealand. Of course I thought that there was no way  I was going there without at least learning about Maori war craft and hopefully taking some photos too. So after quite some searching I found Jade on facebook. After chatting back and forth I told Jade that my travel plans had changed and I was now going to be in NZ in April. That´s when he told me about the Wananga (camp) on the Easter weekend and invited me to come along and take photos, document the men and boys during their training.

Finally I got a call this morning and I also found the address hidden in all the Maori words on the flyer that I had. Jade told me he would be late due to an accident between Dundedin and Leeston but that I should go to the greeting ceremony so I could then “go in and out” as I wanted. I didn´t quite know what that meant but I was smarter afterwards…  I arrived at the site where two huge marquees were put up and loads of kids were running around in the mud and rain despite the wind and pouring rain. I walked in and was greeted warmly. After a while I was pointed towards the other marquee where the greeting ceremony for the new students should take place. I was standing outside in the rain with the kids and parents and could hear boys and young men inside the marquee chanting and stomping. At some point one of the women came to stand outside the marquee and started chanting. The second woman was leading us towards the marquee, chanting back as we walked. All of this felt and sounded very surreal, eerie but somehow very familiar and warm.

As we walked in, the boys and young men were performing a haka each holding a traditional taiaha (wooden spear). The new students sat down opposite the bare chested, stomping and chanting boys and young men. After the performance there was an introduction of which I understood nothing as it was all in Maori language. Then the experienced students lined up to greet each new student and parents and me. First I was not sure if I should join the line or not but since everyone did, I joined too. I was the last in a long line to shake hands and go nose to nose / forehead to forehead with the Chief, the elders, the trainers and the experienced students. It is a very close and intimate way of being greeted. You can really feel the energy of the other person and they were all so warm! Truly warm blooded people. After that the kids started preparing the marquee for the night ~ basically one huge slumberparty. I have no clue how they will manage to stay dry! But they seem to be a tough lot, I’m sure they will be fine and no one will end up sick.


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