Updated: Oct 19
8th October - 10th October
Tangi of Kaumatua Takawai Christina Jacobs, my friend Ngahuia's mama.
My friend Toni and I set off early Thursday morning following the whanau pani as we headed for Pawarenga to return their beloved after service was held in Auckland the night before. After a few drive-bys through Ponsonby and Henderson, we followed our friend who, in her genius, highlighted her car for us so we could find her amongst the dense traffic.
On arrival, we were welcomed on with the whanau and soon put to work in the kitchen, helping prepare dinner that evening followed by a massive two days of non-stop kitchen Mahi. 5am start Friday morning as we prepared breakfast, planned lunch, dinner, and bottomless cups of tea, biscuits, and cakes for the continuous flow of manuhiri throughout the day. It was non-stop. The kitchen crew consisted of the kitchen head, Luke, an actual chef in Auckland, followed by a handful of whanau volunteers. Then there was us two 'minions' from Auckland, not whanau, just Ngahuia's mates who soon took over, working alongside Luke, planning, prepping, directing, and setting up service.
The remainder of our friends Misty, Sheree, Amy, and Bernie arrived Friday afternoon, and we wanted to be there to welcome them, and because we were greeted on already, we moved to the whanau side. As we sat inside the Marae, we heard our mate Misty, an NZ fashion designer, Te Reo Kaiako, and a wahine toa as she broke out in Karanga. It was beautiful. As they entered out, mate Ngahuia broke down, knowing all her friends were nowhere to hold space for and with her during this time.
We all had our roles, Toni and I were leading the kitchen and ensuring it was to our mates standard or maybe more our standards are given. Toni and I are perfectionists, joined by Sheree and Amy, who filled in to help support us. Misty and Bernie stayed by Ngahuia's side.
Friday afternoon/evening was spent planning hakari (feast) and decorating the wharekai for the hakari. All of us except Misty went for a walk along the coastline to forage what we could for table decorations, including harakeke. We found ourselves making putiputi outside in the dark. We laughed through the cold and wind, attempting to teach each other how to make putiputi in the night. After foraging the neighbors white Lillies, we did a table setting mock up before heading to bed around midnight, knowing we would be up again in a few hours.
4:30 am Saturday, little sleep, and completely exhausted, we got up to prepare and pack down breakfast before heading to the Marae again to be called on for the last time to farewell Takawai. The whanau acknowledged the stress the kitchen would be under over the next few hours, so we were released to get back in the kitchen.
The following hours saw us scrambling, setting tables, running out of basics like milk, sugar, biscuits. Luckily our guy mates were on their way, so they delivered all these things in the meantime. We were watering down cream. With an hour to go, one of the whaea (aunty) in the kitchen told us reluctantly that the white Lillies we were using to decorate the table was a bad sign of welcoming back death. Without hesitation, we removed them, and she took Toni down to her place, returning with a box load of wild and bright flowers in pinks and purples. Lesson learned. The whanau pani was about 2hrs behind, so we were well prepared as we had set up the main tables ready to be served. The main table consisted of approx 50 people. We weren't prepared for was the mad rush as the doors to the wharekai opened. People were hungry, and as an impromptu karakia was heard, the kai table was emptying faster than we could fill it—every table busting at the seams as we attempted to clear tables to allow turnover of people. Having served at least 200 people, we were done and ready to head home. Our role in helping out in the kitchen and feeding people was complete.
Before we headed home, Toni had bought two pounamu, one for Ngahuia and her daughter Nyla. Initially, I planned to go down and cleanse our feet. However, Ngahuia reminded me that not only had she started her waiwhero, but I was finishing mine so that we couldn't enter, so Misty and Toni took the taonga into the Moana to bless them. Afterward, we circled our friend as we passed the taonga around, blessing it with our mauri, soft words with a little banter thrown in for the road.