What it means to be Kāi Tahu

Dec 23, 2015


Kaituhi Ranui Ellison-Collins celebrates whanaungatanga at Hui-ā-Iwi 2015.

I could hardly wait until Hui-ā-Iwi. There is nothing I would rather do than celebrate what it means to be Kāi Tahu. This was the second Hui-ā-Iwi we have formally held and it was a huge source of pride to me that it was hosted by Ōtākou, Kāti Huirapa ki Puketeraki and Moeraki. Hui-ā-Iwi also coincided with the opening of the Hākui: Women of Kāi Tahu exhibition at the Otago Museum on the Thursday evening, and the Kotahi Mano Kāika Te Reo Awards on Friday evening. Both added a lot to the flavour of Hui-ā-Iwi.

This year I was a part of the team who pulled together the rakatahi space, with the aim of creating a welcoming, fun, and interactive environment. We were driven by our collective desire for the space to remain open and inclusive, and to encourage Kāi Tahutaka and the formation of iwi-wide relationships.

From a young age, my sister and I remember being dragged to hui across the country. Now, that is not to say that we didn’t enjoy the hui, but more that we wished that we had a retreat space, a room for us and other rakatahi our age where we could express our Kāi Tahutaka in our own individual way. This became the foundation for the space we filled for Hui-ā-Iwi.

We were fairly isolated from most of the festive activities, but thanks to Sista and Rocky from Tahu FM we soon saw a huge increase in the amount of young, enthusiastic Kāi Tahu rakatahi keen to engage with us. We transformed this huge, empty room into a vibrant, fun-filled space.
We had a tā moko station, art corner, ping pong table, music area, wānaka space, dance workshop, a projector streaming the live stream, and a mobile Instagram frame. In all fairness, regardless of what we filled the room with, it was the enthusiasm of the rakatahi and people involved that made this space successful. We were also lucky enough to have been granted 10 spaces for rakatahi to go on the Ngāi Tahu Tourism Shotover Jet. And rakatahi had the option to take part in a flash mob haka held in the Octagon, which drew even more attention to the already trending event.

Overall, I found Hui-ā-Iwi to be an enlightening experience. There is something so refreshing about hundreds of people gathering for one purpose, and for that purpose to be a celebration of themselves. People were open to sharing their opinions, listening to others, and engaging in things they may not have otherwise, like the Instagram frame which was hesitantly taken by some, but thoroughly enjoyed by the end of the event. The rakatahi space seemed to be exactly what we had wanted it to be, and in our eyes, this was success.