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Whanganui River Rulers Bring Ritual of Dawn to Dubai’s Global Trade Experience


Whanganui River iwi leaders performed a dawn ritual in Dubai to dedicate the immersive Aotearoa Pavilion “experience” in New Zealand ahead of the opening of the six-month World Trade Expo .

The leaders of the Emirati and Whanganui rivers hold a dawn ceremony ahead of the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai.
Photo: Supplied / NZ at Expo 2020

The Small Group of Whanganui River Tribes invited Emirati officials to join them for the tāngaengae, a ritual blessing of the experience that was built around kaitiakitanga and the history of the Whanganui River, Te Awa Tupua , including river claims and the world’s first legal entity status granted to the river.

Opened one year late due to the pandemic, the Expo 2020 Dubai experience was designed in partnership with Te Ātihaunui-a-Pāpārangi / Whanganui River iwi.

The experience aims to deepen understanding of Aotearoa New Zealand and the indigenous environmental ethics of kaitiakitanga, inspiring visitors to rethink their relationship with the natural world.

To honor the UAE’s role as host of Expo 2020 Dubai, Whanganui River leaders and the New Zealand delegation invited Qasr Al Hosn, an Emirati cultural group to join the inauguration ceremony of dawn, which began shortly after the Fajr prayer. The ceremony began with the traditional Emirati Al Ayyala performing art, followed by the tāngaengae ritual performed by members of the Iwi of the Whanganui River.

The chief of Whanganui iwi, Gerrard Albert, blesses a toka (rock) from Mount Tongariro, the source of the Whanganui River.

The chief of Whanganui iwi, Gerrard Albert, blesses a toka (rock) from Mount Tongariro, the source of the Whanganui River.
Photo: Supplied / NZ at Expo 2020

Speaking to Local Democracy Reporting from Dubai, Whanganui iwi leader Gerrard Albert said the tāngaengae ritual tells about humanity’s connection to the natural world and is accompanied by the rhythm of the poi, interwoven with rituals to give birth. the mauri (principle of life) of the residential experience.

“Our role is to dedicate mauri and maintain the integrity of Te Awa Tupua. That is why we are here. Tāngaengae gives birth to mauri,” Albert said.

“The mauri evoked by tāngaengae will inspire visitors to the Aotearoa pavilion in New Zealand with the same sense of connection to nature as we do. Our sentinel tribal proverb is Ko au te Awa, ko te Awa ko au – I am the river, the River is me. This proverb represents an innate connection to the natural world that we know everyone shares.

Albert said that due to the Covid pandemic, a much smaller group than initially expected had traveled to Dubai this week to “properly launch the waka on a straight track.”

“It happened this morning (Thursday), but actually all the work was done at home. We’ve been working on it for three and a half years.

” Since [Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act] legislation in 2017, Te Awa Tupua has been internationally hot and not nationally. All the attention came from overseas, and we spoke to many, many news agencies, interested people, research institutes all over the world. We want to make sure that Te Awa Tupua’s story is told with integrity. “

Te Pou Tupua, Tūrama Hāwira, who speaks on behalf of Te Awa Tupua, helped lead the dawn ceremony, along with Keria Ponga, Naani Waitai, Rāwiri Tinirau and others from the Whanganui River.

Members of the Whanganui River iwi perform the tāngaengae ritual at dawn in the New Zealand pavilion in Dubai.

Members of the Whanganui River iwi perform the tāngaengae ritual at dawn in the New Zealand pavilion in Dubai.
Photo: Supplied / NZ at Expo 2020

Whanganui iwi does not maintain a paepae during the six month exhibition, but will visit Dubai twice more at key times to defend the mauri of the Awa Tupua experience and the story told. The first will take place in November, when the three-day Global Indigenous Forum Te Aratini will be held in the New Zealand pavilion, and the tribal leaders will make a final trip in 2022.

Expo 2020 Dubai opens from October 1 to March 31, 2022, with the participation of 191 nations.

New Zealand commissioner general at Expo 2020 Dubai, Clayton Kimpton, said the New Zealand pavilion was created with a revolutionary combination of new technologies, indigenous culture and storytelling.

The people of Whanganui have generously allowed us to share their story on behalf of Aotearoa New Zealand. We look forward to sharing this universal story about the need for us to protect and care for people and places for future generations. . We believe visitors will leave inspired to learn more about how we can innovate together to solve global challenges. ”

A depiction of Te Awa Tupua, the Whanganui River, in the New Zealand pavilion in Dubai.

A depiction of Te Awa Tupua, the Whanganui River, in the New Zealand pavilion in Dubai.
Photo: Supplied / NZ at Expo 2020

Located in the sustainability district of Expo 2020 Dubai, the exterior of the New Zealand pavilion was also designed to show the connection between people and the environment. Its facade moves in time with low frequency sound to create an undulating impulse effect, referring to the mauri, or life force, inside the pavilion.

“Mauri is the life principle of the universal order, and we are part of this universal order with all the natural elements. Entering the pavilion, it is as if you are entering your ancestor, re-entering yourself for understand this connection with the mauri, we share with nature, ”said Albert.

The mauri is centered in a toka (rock) brought to Dubai from Mount Tongariro, the source of the Whanganui River.

The interior includes a hall with water falling from a height of nine meters on either side of the visitor, like a representation of the Whanganui River, Te Awa Tupua. Here, visitors will learn about the laws of the Whanganui River and how a set of indigenous values ​​was shared by the Whanganui River tribes and incorporated into law.

The 2,000-square-meter pavilion also features the licensed Tiaki restaurant, which showcases the country’s food, drink and hospitality, and five-time world hip hop dance champion Parris Goebel hosts a six-time cultural and entertainment program. month that will feature Six60, Kimbra, DJ Sirvere and Sammy Johnson.

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Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest information service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers‘ Association and NZ On Air.


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