In episode two of this series about Hinemihi Te Ao Tawhito, producer Justine Murray weaves together stories of connection to the ancestral meeting house.
At the end of a whanau trip around Europe in 1993 Jim Schuster visited Hinemihi at Clandon Park guided by Alan Gallop, he remembers the moment well.
“Alan told us to look around that corner and you will see Hinemihi…we couldn’t stop the tears rolling down our faces just to see this little whare a long long way from home” he recalls.
Jim returned to Clandon Park two years later to help with repair work and to install new carvings inside the house, Hinemihi was given a much needed spruce up with the help of archaeology and conservation students, the work culminated in a dawn ceremony karakia, and a performance by Ngāti Ranana.
Before Jim’s mother Emily Schuster died in 1997 she told Jim that providing on-going guidance for Māori whanau living in London was important.
“My mum had had always said we’ve got to help those people look after Hinemihi whenever we can we go across and we help them look after it, and that’s what we did in 1995” he says.
Jim says the game changer was the fire at Clandon House in 2015 which gutted the building, with a large repair bill looming and the closure of Clandon House, discussions of a carving exchange stalled, however in 2019 The National Trust released a statement that agreed in principle to the exchange.
The group Ngā Kohinga Whakairo o Hinemihi was formed in late 2018 as representatives of Ngāti Hinemihi to be part of the discussions of a carving exchange. Ruakiri Fairhall is part of the collective;
“We felt that the conversations internationally and across both countries stalled and so we decided to support the kaupapa…we were able to meet as a committee and with multiple stakeholders…to put emphasis on the carving exchange” he says.
In recent months the Rotorua based group has hosted online wānanga with Te Maru o Hinemihi, Ngāti Ranana, The Ministry of Culture and Heritage and The National Trust.
“Our mahi is to ensure that we protect the mana of Hinemihi our kuia and our iwi as well and we make sure that we go into our conversations and our hui under the whakaaro of te rangimarie and wairua tau” Ruakiri says.
Discussions include the whakapapa (genealogy) and histories of Ngāti Hinemihi, the tikanga and kawa (protocols) of different ancestral houses and conversations about the future aspirations of the iwi towards a successful exchange.
‘We are starting to build the understanding for what the future looks like for us as a cohort of stakeholders and finding a way forward to ensure that everyone, every person or group that’s involved in this kaupapa has a chance to speak their truth and find a way forward together under te kōtahitanga whatever that may look like”
The carvings remain in storage and according to Rangitihi Pene these are are set to move to another storage facility in September.
Dr Keri-Anne Wikitera is a descendant of Hori Taiawhio who was one of the lead rowers during the tourism boom in Te Wairoa, he transported British tourists across to the Pink and White Terraces. His house he shared with his second guide Sophia also gave shelter to people during the Tarawera eruption of 1886.
It was a trip to Wales to trace the whakapapa of her father that ultimately led Dr Keri-Anne Wikitera and her sisters to Clandon Park. After visiting their fathers land and a family cemetery Keri-Anne says that she did not feel a connection to the place, it was only after they travelled to Oxfordshire to see the grave of their tupuna Makareti Papakura that she and her sisters decided to visit Hinemihi on their last day of the trip.
“Straight away we went into pōwhiri mode and we were just howling as we walked in there because she opened her arms to us...that day my research topic and my connection to Hinemihi really began...it was really ironic that our connection to our fathers turangawaewae and whenua came alive when we met our mothers Māori side” she says.
In 2015 she completed her thesis ‘Māori Spaces in Foreign Places – Hinemihi Te Ao Tawhito’
Dr Keri-Anne Wikitera is also a contributing writer to the book Hinemihi Te Hokinga – The Return by Hamish Coney, released in 2020. Hamish is a writer and arts advisor who was the managing director of the auction house Art and Object which he founded in 2007.
In recent years Coney’s research has focussed on the history of Te Arawa and Ngati Tarawhai tohunga whakairo, most notably Wero Taroi, Tene Waitere, Ānahata Rahui, and Neke Kapua. His interest in this field also extends to the contemporary art space such as the work of carver Lyonel Grant.
“I think it’s really important that we see practitioners really placed in a central position within the New Zealand art canon as opposed to sitting to one side, you know in the Māori corner of the museum or in this kind of ‘other’ space, these artists are some of the most important foundational artists of our art production’, so that’s the whakaaro that sits behind the Hinemihi book” he says.
In 2014 Hamish visited Hinemihi at Clandon park and says he also felt a spiritual connection to the house, upon his return home he got in touch with Jim Schuster. It turns out there is a personal connection.
“My family had originally travelled to Okataina in the 1890s my great great grandfather was one of the architects of the Geyser hotel in Rotorua and talking to Jim I’m pretty convinced that my great great grandfather and Tene Waitere worked tougher because Tene did quite a lot of carving of those original hotels, so that really sparked my interest on a personal family level” he says.
Hamish Coney was also instrumental in organising Hinemihi – Te Hokinga – The Return - an exhibition of Mark Adams photographs of Hinemihi at Two Rooms Gallery in 2020.