He Kuaka

Te Hokianga Mai

In September and October, great flights of kuaka return to Aotearoa from Alaska and the northern tundra. Whereas in ancient times for Maori, the return of the Kuaka was seen as a celebratory event. Today this annual phenomenon is mainly marked by ornithologists (bird watchers) and environmentalists.

We want to develop a Maori programme of celebrations to welcome the Kuaka back home to Aotearoa. Its worth reflecting on how, not too many years ago, Matariki was simply seen as being the winter solstice.

Today Matariki events are held nation-wide. Our aim is to create a similar outcome for the return of the Kuaka. We want to use the springtime return of the Kuaka as an opportunity to celebrate whanau and community leaders. We are calling these often unrecognised leaders Kahukura, the lead Kuaka. There are other tribal names for the lead bird but for the purposes of this project we will refer to Kahukura. We want acknowledge our Kahukura for their hard work and guidance in helping whānau achieve their goals.

The period for the return of the Kuaka rolls out over about a month (September/ October) as the Kuaka work their way south. Its not like a single date like New Year's Eve so there is plenty of scope to develop a broad programme of local celebrations throughout the motu. Because the Kuaka are essentially coastal birds we intend to commence our celebratory activity on beaches and estuaries. We are looking to use flags and kites (manu tukutuku) as emblematic devices.

If you have ideas, designs, or ways we can celebrate please contribute to our kete kakano. We are just seeding this idea.

Te Wharau O Te Kuaka

Then, in late summer, as the Kuaka prepare to return to their breeding grounds on the other side of the world, we want to shift the focus and the metaphor - from whanau leadership to one of whanau preparedness. Are whanau members fit and skilled enough to venture out into life and the year ahead? This is not suggested as a time of national celebration but more of a localised hapu and whanau specific programme of reflection and commitment.