The 27th biennial Hui Takataapui 2014, sponsored jointly by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and the Ministry of Health, took place recently at Te Papa o Rotu Marae in Whatawhata, approximately 15 minutes west of Hamilton. Running over 4 days from Thursday 6th to Sunday 9th November, this was the first time the Hui Takataapui had been hosted in the Waikato region. The theme of this year’s Hui was based on the iconic whakataukii (proverbial saying) of the inaugural Māori King, Pōtatau Te Wherowhero:
Kotahi anō te kōhao o te ngira, e kuhana ai te miro whero, te miro mā, me te miro pango
There is but one eye of the needle, through which the red, the white and the black threads must pass
Interpreted for a contemporary context, this theme celebrates the rich diversity of whaanau Maaori and the contribution that Takataapui whaanau members make to iwi and hapuu across Aotearoa. It also positions the Hui Takataapui itself as the proverbial ‘eye of the needle’ through which the diverse (red, white and black) threads are brought together, in the spirit of aroha (love and respect), kotahitanga (unity), and waananga (collective learning).
The themes highlighted by the first day’s keynote speakers, MP Nanaia Mahuta, Chantell Martin and MP Louisa Wall, were (re)connecting, solidarity, transformation and whaanau. Louisa announced that a small but committed cross-party collective of politicians have pledged their ongoing support for Takataapui issues; and Chantell, who is based in Sydney, envisaged expanding the Hui Takataapui network across the Tasman. Saturday morning’s speakers, Tamati Coffey, Geoff Rua’ine and Manawaroa Te Wao, spoke candidly and with a lot of humour about coming out, aspirations, living with HIV, and, again, the importance of whaanau. There was also the opportunity during the hui for people to gather into groups to discuss and debate pertinent issues.
Two weeks after the hui, I sat down with Manawaroa Te Wao of Ngaati Maahanga, a member of the organizing committee, to get her impressions of the Hui from a hau kaainga (home people of the marae) perspective, as well as from her perspective as one of the speakers. Manawaroa firstly acknowledged the work of the organizing committee and their commitment, over the two years of planning, to ensuring that the Hui would be a memorable experience for everyone involved. Ngaati Maahanga took a lot of pride in hosting the Hui and wanted to make a really good impression. Having won the tono (bid) to bring the Hui Takataapui to the Waikato, there was a lot of mana at stake!
When asked how she thought the event had gone, Manawaroa spoke of the overwhelmingly positive feedback they had received. While such praise initially “makes your head want to swell”, the hau kaainga are of the firm belief that ‘the kumara does not sing its own praises’; they are accustomed to hard work, and many of them took time off from their jobs to support the marae over the 4 days. As a result of the success of the Hui Takataapui 2014, they now have a renewed confidence in their capacity to host a large international hui and pull it off. Although 150 attendees were expected, the marae had prepared well and were able to cope with the close to 200 people that actually turned up.
One of the highlights of the Hui for Manawaroa was having her nieces and nephews rallying around, willing to do whatever was asked of them to help out. One nephew, who had also brought his children to the Hui told her, “I’m not gay, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! All these people came from all over New Zealand – to my marae!” She loved too that people had said when they walked into Te Papa o Rotu “they could feel the wairua.” I asked Manawaroa what the Hui Takataapui was really all about for her. She responded, “I love the way it is now, being about whaanau, coming together and sharing – and education. I enjoy the young ones, especially the young transgender ones. And talking to the old girls.”
Finally, I asked Manawaroa to share her vision for the future: “Just being able to walk down the road and not be called names. Just be ‘normal’, whatever that means. Be accepted. Be allowed to be who we are.”
Te Puawai Tapu Trust