Māori Way of Life

Water as Prevailing Presence

I met Kelly Kahukiwa at a café in downtown Whangārei. After coffee, we drove to the ngahere atop the nearby Mount Parihaka. The mountain, really an eroded bush clad volcanic cone, housed a former pā site (village) and memorial commemorating the servicemen and women of World War II. It is one of the most significant mountains for Māori in Northland (fig. 13). We hiked for a short bit as Kelly casually pointed out plants for their medicinal or ritualistic purposes. He noticed one that was meant to be eaten when one enters the forest, selected a ripe leaf, recited a karakia (Māori prayer), and handed me half of it. We munched and trotted along, unbeknownst to me, toward a small clearing just off the forest track.

Kelly Kahukiwa is an artist, teacher and musician whose specialty is making music based on the sounds and vibrations of the ngahere. He created Te Reo Ngaro o te Rākau – The Hidden Voices of Trees Project, as a way to tap into the hidden language that exists in the ngahere. His tribal affiliations are Ngāti Io, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngai Tūhoe and Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki. As we circled the clearing, he explained that he visited this spot to think, meditate and gather inspiration for his music, but just as often to sit and listen to the sounds of the ngahere with no ulterior creative goal.