Tuesday, March 06, 2007


One of the most tangibly powerful experiences I had in New Zealand was when I went to Kawhia a couple of years ago. The Tainui tribe had carved a replica of the double-hulled canoe (waka) that they originally arrived in from Hawaiiki, and had a festival to re-enact their landing. We were up before dawn, and entered the Marae (Maori meeting house). The waka was carried down to the water's edge, whilst the female elder welcomed us all and our dead ancestors. A spine-chilling and moving wail.

In the dark, the waka paddled off to the beat of a drum and the chanting of the tribe. It was timed so that when they arrived back, the sun was coming up. I had seen the haka before, but the one that the Tainui did, in the mud, when they got out of the waka was incredible. Not aggressive, but powerful, intense, energetic, passionate, close.

I have total respect for such preservation and endurance of tradition and ritual; something I feel a lot of the West has lost touch with, and that sometimes saddens me. It was an honour to have been welcomed onto the Marae to be part of the whole experience.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your photo tells really strongly about an intensity or being totally present in this moment.
I am happy, you got experience like that. It gives a lot of thinking.
Strong feelings to you :)

6:32 PM  
Blogger Inconsequential said...

Cool, you've done quite a few interesting things so far in your life, hope you do many more.

Of course a photo of a man sticking his tongue out is rather awkward to put words to, especially when you have kindly explained what's going on :)

He does look 'into' his thing though.

6:39 PM  
Blogger lettuce said...

Its a really powerful picture - and what a fantastic experience.

I've been reading a bit about the Sami recently - and the way they listen to the heart-beat at the centre of the earth. Thats so appealing.

You MUST have seen Whale Rider? One of my all-time favourite films.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Nathalie said...

Pod what a beauty

The photo could have been shown alone, it would have brought in all the compliments it deserves. It is beautifully framed and remarkably powerful.

I've often wondered how many words should go under a picture.

You yourself often put very little and let the viewers make the comments and interpretation. They are free to put in there as much as they want and people generally love that.

But here the picture comes with a story that brings it to another level. What we lose in stimulation to our imagination, we gain in knowledge and understanding, both of the Maori culture and of your own emotions and beliefs. Thanks for sharing that with us.

I've lived in Tahiti for six years and that's Maori country too. They have the same canoes, the same tattoos, the same dances and language. I can relate to everything you wrote.


10:28 PM  
Blogger Sherry Snowdrop said...

Yes, tradition and ritual. I think they are essential dear Podster.

Children, and therefore we too, learn through ritual and repetition.

And literature is born of ritual and tradition. The ritual of korus. The tradition of goat songs about heroes, told around a primeval fire and passed on, word of mouth.

It's important. It's fundamentally what defines us as more than just objects in spacetime.

11:32 PM  
Blogger √čarithranduil said...

Full of tradition and cultural power!

11:46 PM  
Anonymous Simona said...

every time I see a picture from NZ, I realize that I miss so much that wounderful land, the person I met over there (as you), and the experiences that I made.

1:50 AM  
Blogger First Nations said...

it's sad that here in the u.s. we have to rely on university trained kids to recover the many west coast tribal languages and traditions that are nearly dead, or have only two native practitioners remaining. but at least someone's interested.
this is important stuff to chronicle. good for you, pod!

2:46 AM  
Blogger Momentary Academic said...

That is an incredible picture. The tendons and veins in that man's neck really emphasize the power of the call.

I've seen a version that the New Zealand Rugby team does--probably not nearly as powerful as this moment, but I was stunned nonetheless.

Yay Pod.

3:15 AM  
Blogger d. chedwick bryant said...

It seems that where ritual and true traditions survive, the people are more spiritual and wise. Such a powerful shot.

3:52 AM  
Blogger Ici par la said...

j'aime beacoup!

6:23 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Powerful image, Pod.
I can imagine how that Haka was performed in front of you from yiur text. You had a great experience.

6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's so cool - I think blogs are at their best when they lose that whole ironic blase edge and are actually honest about the things that really matter to people - this post had a real ring of truth about it that I really appreciated.

You are ace!

7:40 AM  
Blogger Jay said...

What a great way to capture the moment.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

The power is radiating from your pic - thank you so much for telling the story. I like it that some people are working very hard to keep old traditions alive while others jettison all that's old in order to find new traditions. I love the diversity of our crazy species. Thank you!

10:00 AM  
Anonymous get zapped said...

Your experience sounds outrageous and the photo captures such intensity and feeling. Very nice piece. I think traditional ways are so important, I find myself attracted to Asian culture, art and spiritual practices- perhaps, some yearning to revive the spiritual thread in the West.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous ja said...

First, this is a million-word photo. No, definitely more.
But second....Maybe we've [what you termed "the West"] lost touch with this kind of culture, whatever the collective or ethnically individual original culture that has been lost. But what does this man do. Seriously, what? We've lost a past. And I live in the past, and that's sad as heck. But we've gained a future. Whenever I see things like this something deeply cynical in me asks the questions: Is this just a tourist gimmick or does this man not have a future/evolved culture? This is the type of imperialist stuff that gets me into trouble. I'm wrong. And I know it. And I also know you've said you lived previous lives...but anytime someone asks you what time and place in history would you like to go back to and live in....why answer "Beauvais," 15th C 'because they built the tallest tower in the world and it fell down a few years later but it was a time of great optimism...' It's not just about having toilet paper today but having the choice to toilet paper....About having the choice to sticking out your tongue for a photographer (or lack of one). Now if he chose to relive old traditions, that's great. But if he's doing it for lack of choice or being paid to do so like the Polynesian village established by the Mormon Brigham Young U...well then....i....don't....know.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous ja said...

Hey, you know what. I'm wrong. Total respect for the preservation of culture so it doesn't get lost. Yes. That is good. That's not what I meant to reconsider. I was just rambling. And I know it was a reenactment, similar to people dressed as Puritans and standing on Plymouth rock (if that happens). I guess I was thinking more of the BYU living museum, which seems to be just a carry over from the old imperialist exhibitions where they'd prop up the primitiveness of their colonies.
Again, not at all what your post was about but it's interesting that it was a powerful experience being there...and its powerful/intriguing reading your description of the event but seeing the photo alone, without description could make the observer draw totally different conclusions about the subject. Tradition seen through modernity...there's an observer's detachment for the site viewers but not the photographer. Like I said, a million words....your posts are always very interesting.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous ja said...

Wait [ignore/delete last 2posts]
awesome pic. reminds me of whale rider/

12:38 PM  
Blogger Joel Reynolds said...

Awesome shot, man. Great expression - perfectly timed. Depth of field is great on this one.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous josy said...

My first reaction, to the photo in and of itself, was the giggle wildly.

Then I read your description and felt bad about laughing.

Then I looked back and the photo and snorted milk out my nose because really, I can vividly imagine someone spontaneously doing this in the middle of a lunchtime conversation.

I do appreciate and respect your experience!

4:39 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Maybe his drink didn't taste very nice!?

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Lynne said...

This belongs in a National Geographic mag! Seriously, Pod, you've captured something totally awesome here.

Love the shallower depth of field to allow him to pop right out at you and the lovely background/colors to mellow and blend.

12:49 AM  
Blogger griesmail said...

Must be a great experience. be proud you live in the same country.
The photo tells enough

2:21 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I went to New Zealand a few years ago, and it was an incredible trip. The tongue thing is a Maori greeting, isn't it? Or is it mean to look threatening? I can't remember. Anyway, it's a terrific shot.

2:46 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Hey Pod, whatever happened to our good friend Tess? Haven't heard from her in ages...

2:48 AM  
Blogger lettuce said...

Hi Poddington - yes please, steal copy borrow blag snaffle plagiarise swipe away, I'll look forward to it.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Pod said...

MIMMU - and to you mimmu ;0)

INC - he was definitelty into it!

LETTY - hard to convey the real feeling in words. i saw whalerider the day before i left for NZ and bawled most of the way through it for the same reason i talked about sadness in this post. i knew the film was going to be about loss of the old ways. great film hey? NZ was an experience. i don't think i have ver felt the energy of a place so strongly. i could go on...and yes i may snaffle...

NATLY - yes i considered posting sans words but in the end felt it needed a little explanation. i can be a man of few words, but i can also go on and on and on. Tahiti must have been amazing. we must meet up soon!

SNOWDROP - hello you! you know my link with the past is strong, as is yours. i think it is that that makes tradition important to me.

EARITH - good to see you! ;0)

SIMONA - it seems an age ago! sitting on that boat in the sun! aah x

FN - it really does sadden me that some things?memories/stories/recipes even etc are lost forever :0(

MA - their haka is powerful too though. you should see the veins in a pic i will post soon.....ooh

CHED - that is why it is sad taht we are losing tradition

ICI PAR LA - merci young man and bienvenu!

BEN - was quite profound!

LP1 - i want a tomato!!

JAY - hello! long time no see ;0)

REYA 0 i guess it is evolution in progress to see things slip away and new traditions form. is there a new wkind of wisdom evolving or are we returning to what was once known??

ZIPPY - i think in places like that you can actually feel what is going on. where really can you feel that so widespread in the UK or the States?

JA - i see what you are saying, but this wasn't put on for the sake of tourists. it was their own fesrival that i was lucky enough to be allowed into. they visit the marae weekly to be taught whatever they are taught and tradition is carried on in that way. it is incorporated into how they live their everyday lives. and he certainly wasn't paid for his 'performance'. it is a way of life for them, and when you go to something like that you can feel the history. well i can. i haven't ever experienced that in a churh for example. and yes choice creates stress. especially where toilet paper is involved....

JOEL - i was stunned when i got the prints back. i was taking photos in a frenzy as there was so much to see but at the same time i was wrapped up in the situation

JOSY - tis never bad to laugh!! ;0o

JOHN - ;0)

GRIESMAIL - i was there for three years. i am in sydney now

STEVE - no, pressing noses is a greeting. the tongue sticking out is meant to be a threatening gesture. i think tess is away. i will tell her you were asking after her

12:21 PM  
Blogger raindog said...

neato burrito! love the culture info, and the photo, of course, brilliant! did this one go to web-pix? ... i feel like i've missed so much ...

2:16 AM  
Blogger etain_lavena said...

Gosh that is sooo kewl:)

6:02 AM  
Blogger herhimnbryn said...

Powerful and humbling.

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