Pride and unity from big build

Saturday April 13, 2019 Written by Published in Weekend
Areora Makatea Villagers proud of the work done with their own hands. 19041212 Areora Makatea Villagers proud of the work done with their own hands. 19041212

Neatly dressed people set plates of food while men constructed the toilet block, others did a final rake, and still others hastily prepared ei maire, rocks and nu for the opening of Anaraura’s new Are kikau (traditional hut).


Papa Orometua Ngarangi quoted Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain...” saying that God must come first, heaven is our final home that we must be prepared for.

He spoke of a prophecy - Ezekiel 43:9:  “The river of God will flow from the temple to make fresh the Dead Sea. Waters will teem with life as well, trees provide fruit to eat and leaves for medicine.

“In applying to our lives,” he said, “we are touched by the river of God when we accept Jesus as our Saviour, then we experience abundant life.”

He suggested that in some ways this project has caused a river to flow through our community bringing life to the island.

“We await the government hut, but this has been made by our own hands. Noou, noku, no tatou – for you, for me, for us all.”

Secretary Ake Rongo Teatai explains: “This project [Anaraura Beach upgrade] came in mind after a beach tutaka [inspection] organised by the tourism board. The two villages that make up Areora/Makatea community decided to make a traditional hut while we await the tin one.”

“I’m so happy with our achievement. The whole village has come together. Rain has blessed us, we are happy.”

Ake says the mamas pushed the project along and there is still work to be done.

Are kikau predates the papa’a era so Maori terms dominate building conversations as men select and construct from the various sized rakau (wood from the toa tree with bark beaten off for longevity).

Following are Mauke’s building terms:

Torotoro kiore (the rat runway) - ridge timbers

Oka – larger supporting rafters

Tarava – perlins

Kau – thinner rafters onto which roofing is tied

Pou – posts

Rape – wall ‘top plate’

Taua – floor

Pange – coconut floor surround

Kikau – woven for roof

Taputu – kikau woven in a specific manner to cap off the ridge/ flashing.

It was interesting, and sometimes amusing, that although these men use tape measures and levels at work, they chose “old ways” for this building. Occasionally opposing directions were shouted from two instructing where to place a rafter or horizontal support. Each set of eyes, crouched or standing, viewing from a different perspective. The ocean’s horizon provides a natural ‘level’.

Smaller rafters, on to which kikau is fastened, are closely spaced so ribbing doesn’t sag, working within the length of each overlapping woven kikau.

About 10 years ago, when Mauke still had a number of Are kikau, households were asked to produce 16 double kikau for the airport Are. Being new to me, I asked what length and was told “two arm spans, but if you’re taller, one hand span less”.

I couldn’t resist asking: “Am I tall? What if you’re short?”

The reply “a short person makes it two arm spans plus one hand span”.

So easy, and there I was ready with my tape measure, silly me!

This time one group of men selected and trimmed kikau to desired length. The advantage of working together on-site.

Interestingly, a tape measure was used when constructing the toilet block. Tin just isn’t as forgiving as kikau. A reused tin roof, whilst not so pretty, will be useful to harvest rain for hand washing.

Each village has a beach site. Papa Teariki Teao’s family are land owners at Anaraura. He says this land was given many generations ago for Areora and Makatea. To the right sits Te Ava Tapu, a passage famed for good fishing and vaka access.

Teariki’s wife Apii says: “This is the furtherest beach site, so it’s nice to see people keeping it up, really going for it.” With a smile she tells me “We’re not interested in competition, we just want to do this for us.”

Rumour says some villages were only interested in doing things up for tourism’s competition and thats it. “But not us!”

Weeks ago as we raked, shovelled, chopped and wheel-barrowed people discussed all sorts of ideas, the competition didn’t feature.

I was told that the government/Island Administration has talked for quite some time of building tin huts at each picnic area. Te Oneroa Beach received theirs two years ago, Arapaea and Anaraura not yet.

So the community decided, no more waiting, let’s go back to what we had before - Are kikau.

I would be happy if the tin hut never eventuates.  Not only for aesthetic and cultural reasons, but because Are kikau are warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Kikau won’t last as long, but when one observes the sense of unity, pride and ownership resulting from this project, it’s not such a bad thing to be doing this again in five or six years’ time. Then I hope the younger ones, content to look on this time, will take ownership and continue the tradition.

Perhaps that life Papa spoke of has begun to spread as maroro tunutunu was sold last Friday for Palmerston’s hostel, a fundraiser organised by Marsters’ descendents, Mama Orometua and Shelvana, which drew most of the island to Makatea General Store, raising $1000 in sales and donations. Two more fundraisers are planned.

We are grateful for tourism’s initiative that birthed an idea and excited to see how quickly it has taken on a wonderful life of its own, one that continues to develop even after the official opening.

Coming from a family of “super planners” its disconcerting that there appears to be no one person overseeing, although councillors Poko and Arapo (aka Uke) worked as hard as the rest of us. Meeting decisions change on-site, communications depend upon being in the wrong place at the right time, and then people start a phase of work a day or two prior to the announced working bee (a pleasant surprise). The whole project has been a free flowing, organic process that would worry any project manager ... but it has worked!

A wonderful sense of ownership is witnessed as individuals plant what they want, where they want. Tiare Maori, tipani, tou, miro, kuru, tapotapo, nu, and a few precious seedlings that we all hope will grow into majestic Tava trees (Mauke’s answer to the lychee).

People regularly check out their handiwork, perhaps hoping that in years to come their anau will proudly say “we planted that”.

- June Hosking (Mauke)


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