New Zealanders celebrate birth of the nation
04 Feb 2009
Royalty, politicians, artists and performers will be among the crowds taking part in Waitangi Day - New Zealand’s national holiday - celebrations this Friday (6.02.09).
Waitangi Day commemorates the signing of the nation’s founding document - the Treaty of Waitangi - in 1840.
Celebrations to mark this significant event in New Zealand history take place throughout the country but official festivities are centred on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands, Northland, where the original Treaty was signed.
Waitangi Day (6 February) was declared a national holiday in 1974, and since then has grown in significance for all New Zealanders through the Māori renaissance that’s fostered better understanding of the Treaty’s ramifications.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key will be making his first visit to the Waitangi celebrations since his election in November last year, as will the country’s new Māori king.
King Tuheitia will be taking a delegation of about 800 people with a contingent of seven Tainui waka (traditional canoes) from his Waikato tribe. The King will be accompanied by Tonga's Princess Royal. Rarotongan royalty is also due to arrive in Waitangi for the celebrations.
Other New Zealand politicians are among those travelling north for Waitangi Day. They will be meeting national iwi (tribal) leaders for discussions following their annual Waitangi conference.
The three-day festival of music, dance, food and ceremonies at Waitangi kicks off mid-week with members of the local Ngapuhi tribe gathering for a mass kawe mate, which recognises those who have died in the past year.
Māori cultural performances, speeches from Māori and Pakeha (European) dignitaries, and a naval salute are all part of the day.
More than 700 oarsmen paddling 20 traditional Māori waka (canoes) are expected to take part in the waka regatta during the commemoration. This will be the largest gathering of waka for 20 years.
Last year 46,600 people attended Waitangi celebrations and an even bigger crowd - around 60,000 - of manuhiri (visitors) is expected at the Treaty Grounds this year.
Around the country
The New Zealand government has given $276,500 for 2009 Waitangi Day events throughout New Zealand in a bid to promote stronger national and community ties.
In Auckland a ‘Native Noise’ festival will be held at Okahu Bay Domain which is the city’s birthplace. In 1841, chiefs from Auckland Māori tribe Ngati Whatua invited Governor Hobson to the Okahu Bay Domain to create the city.
Every year visitors are welcomed onto the grounds of the Domain by a traditional Māori greeting ceremony (haka powhiri). Classic sailing yachts, waka (war canoes) and contemporary boats arrive at Okahu Bay to join in the welcoming ceremony offered by the hosts, Ngati Whatua o Orakei.
Wellington, the nation’s capital is also putting on its annual Waitangi Day event which recognises New Zealand’s cultural diversity. At Waitangi Park - an historic wetland area on the city's waterfront - a fusion of different cultures celebrate with entertainment, arts and crafts and multicultural food. The crowd will be kept entertained with performances of kapa haka (Māori performance arts), drumming, and dance.
Elsewhere throughout the country there will be diverse commemorative cultural events with traditional kai (food), Māori crafts and artwork, kapa haka and family activities. Major events include:
- Kawhia Kai Festival, Waikato
- Waitangi Day cultural music festival, Palmerston North
- Waitangi 09 Origins Festival, Wairarapa
- North Canterbury Waitangi Day Festival, Kaiapoi (near Christchurch)
- A.R.E.A9 music festival, Mackenzie District of the lower South Island.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds: New Zealand's birthplace
Māori culture challenges at Te Matatini
Kapa haka - the Māori performing arts story
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