Tag Archives: Maori names

Creative Genius

Yesterday was the sort of sublimely beautiful, fair-weather day that makes me want to drop everything, hop in the car and  drive forever. Maybe not quite forever, but at least for as long as it takes me to explore my country from end to end and side to side.  But, being the annoyingly responsible person that I am, all we managed to do was a couple of hours of wonderful exploring of the Styx River, and, then, we dutifully came home, in time to bring in the laundry, make the dinner, feed the animals, wash the dishes, dry the dishes and turn the dishes over….actually, we have a dishwasher but that doesn’t make the domestic routines any less domestic or routine.

Normally, or nine times out of ten, I can find a way to be unbothered by the mundanities of housekeeping but, after our gallivanting, I found myself in an unusual, one time out of ten state of grumpiness. My grumps were brought on, not so much by the curtailment of my freedom-travelling aspirations but by reading about a prolific, long dead male composer. (The reading done, between potato boiling and fritter frying, and on top of  a week of reading about  famous, male writers). And I thought,” Yes,Mr Composer, your music is awesome. You are a creative genius BUT your creativity flourished because someone fed you and cared for you and allowed you to be what you needed to be. Someone like me, Mr Composer. So what if you wrote 50 symphonies and 10 operas, or whatever. Given the right conditions, I might have done the same (that’s seriously, seriously, flawed thinking), but, instead, my oeuvre, my mistresswork is some 30,000 meals, 21,000 loads of washing, hundreds of cakes, dozens of biscuits, thousands of shopping lists and exquisitely made beds, multitudes of beautifully pressed shirts……..so score that Mr Genius Composer, if you can! It will take you thirty years or more, especially if you have one hand stirring the porridge and one eye in the back of your head watching the children. Then, just when you think you are done, you’ll find you have an unfinished symphony because Mother has fallen and needs hours of gentle nursing, AND you still haven’t taken out the rubbish for the umpteenth time. Put that in your fiddle and play it, Mr Composer, you!”

So, having traversed that hump in my grump, I sat down and listened to the sublime music of Mr Composer (truly, truly, I can never equal your genius)  and started to research where our little gallivant had taken us.  Our first stop was  the Janet Stewart Reserve on the Styx River; a destination I chose on the spur of the moment, as we were leaving our driveway. This was our first visit to this Reserve.Janet Stewart ReserveIt was created as part of the Styx River Project which has, amongst its aims, the creation of a source to sea experience and the establishment of a viable spring fed river ecosystem.The Janet Stewart Reserve, covers land which runs parallel with the  Lower Styx Road for approximately a kilometre. It also borders part of a very busy main road; Marshlands Road.

The Reserve is home to a specially designed and planted harakeke garden. Harakeke is a type of flax which is used for Maori weaving. The garden is considered a taonga, or treasure, for the Christchurch weaving community.The Harakeke Garden

At the entrance to the garden there is a fascinating woven sculpture.Woven Sculpture

When you approach the sculpture you realise that the story of harakeke is crafted into the structure.  Welcome

As you read, you can hear traffic in the distance but the dominant background music comes from the birds, hidden in the bushes and the thick vegetation on the banks of the river. Birds, where are you?Wetland

The Janet Stewart Reserve is a place of creativity, conservation, calm, beauty, nourishment, renewal and responsible stewardship. Who then is Janet Stewart whose name honours this place. A politician, a composer, a musician, an opera diva, a writer? Nope, not all. Janet Stewart was that greatest of all creative geniuses; a Mother.Nothing more, nothing less.

When Edmond Stewart died in 1993, he bequeathed his land to the City Council for the purposes of creating a reserve to be named after his hardworking, resourceful mother, Janet Stewart.   The Janet Stewart Reserve is a son’s loving tribute to his Mother.  A living symphony of sound and light and wonder, and music to my ears. Next time, I have the grumps I will remember Janet Stewart and her Reserve and all will be well.

Precious Metal

This is metal, precious metal, from the World Trade Center.Branded for Life

I am standing close enough to touch it; to press my cheek against it. But I can not. My hand is raised, ready to feel the rough surface, but I hesitate and withdraw as if afraid the redness of the metal may somehow burn me. Am I being fanciful? Possibly. Yet, the fact remains, my hand is restrained by a sense of  overwhelming pain, imprinted on the object before me. It does not want to be touched. It is not ready; it is healing.

Are objects bearers of our burdens, our feelings? Do they carry our histories? Would I feel this way if I came to this piece of metal without knowledge of its tragic story. I am not sure.

What is this story and why am I so close to it on a sunny, Saturday afternoon, in the city of Christchurch?

I am at the Firefighters Reserve, on the corner of Kilmore and Madras Streets, Firefighters Reserve

next to the Central Fire Station. Central Fire Station

I am here out of curiosity. The Reserve has been in existence for more than ten years. I have driven by many, many times, and know something of its origins, but have failed to stop for a proper visit. Today, I want to find out what I have been missing. This is what I find. This is what I see. This is the story.

The TributeThe SculptureThe Story BeginsSculptureSculptureSculptureSculptureThe Story

This part of the story comforts me. It seems to validate my inability to physically communicate with the sculptured metal. “The sculpture stands……near the historic site of the former Tautahi Pa. There were important Maori cultural and spiritual issues to be considered in placing a sculpture made from a site of death near this significant life-giving site. Consultation……took place to ensure that processes and procedures were enacted to appropriately acknowledge and address the cultural considerations.” It also answers a question I posed in my earlier post on a sacred site a few metres  further down river from the Firefighters Reserve…..   https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/still-floundering-after-all-these-years/

And, finally, the story ends or, perhaps, begins a new telling.Endings or Beginnings

And ,so, I sit and reflect Reflecting

how I,  in my small corner of the world,Small corner

can help to heal the wounds of our world.WoundedIn the words on the plaque………


PUMAUTIA KI TE POU ROKO    © silkannthreades

Still floundering after all these years…..

I can trace my family lines in New Zealand for at least 150 years. That is not long, compared to my family history in the United Kingdom, but it seems long enough to establish a firm foothold in a relatively new land. Yet, from time to time, I find myself very ill at ease in this country, as if I were an early settler woman tripping up on her petticoat heritage as she flounders ashore to encounter sights, strange and unimaginable. Sights as distant from her life experience and comprehension as the approximately 12,000 miles she has travelled to meet them.

Such a time happened recently when we visited a small sanctuary at the intersection of two busy streets, Salisbury and Barbadoes. This spot, sequestered within a gathering of native plantings, has been calling me ever since I noticed its appearance some years ago. I finally responded to the calling on Saturday.  But, when I arrived on the threshold of the enclave, I found I didn’t know how to knock on the door, nor upon whom I was calling. I had the vaguest of notions, gleaned months ago from a newspaper article , that I was at a sacred site for Maori. What did that mean? Should I take off my shoes; should I take photos?   There were no signs to give a name to the area, to indicate  protocol, to offer a history. Was I supposed to know all by osmosis or by virtue of my New Zealandness? As a student, I walked past this sacred site every day for a year. There wasn’t a single plant or obvious marker, at that time, and I had no idea I was walking so close to a place of treasured history. Who did know back then? Was I alone in my ignorance?

I decided, eventually, that, as an upholder of all sacred spaces,  it would be okay to take some photos. At least, my photos would be more respectful than the beer bottle tossed in to the surrounding bushes.

Here are the photos.This is the approach from a side road; Cambridge Terrace. You can see what looks like a totem pole but is actually called a pou.

The approach

A close up of the plantings.Plantings This is my first view of the clear, sacred water. *”The stream has special significance because of the wairua (spirit) of the water often used by tohunga whakaora-a-wairua for healing purposes, and for the historical link with the noble chief, Tautahi”. Otautahi (Christchurch) is named after Tautahi. *”Harakeke which was vital for clothing, ropes and mats, and many medicinal plants” were also found in the area.Water View

Here are two of the three poles that mark the spot. According to the Christchurch City Library website, the three poles represent the three waves of migration to New Zealand. After the earthquakes, they all appear to be  on a lean and the middle plinth has lost its wooden top. The website doesn’t explain which pole represents which migration but I feel as though the middle one represents my sometimes unsure footing in this land.UnsteadyThis is the water tumbling on its way to the river.Tumbling water This is a view of the river Avon or Otakaro. Note that across the road is the badly damaged Holiday Inn, complete with the requisite fencing and containers.Holidays no moreOpposite the sanctuary is the oldest cemetery in Christchurch which was also damaged in the earthquakes. It was established in 1851. Perhaps the position of the cemetery is an earlier precedent for my present day floundering. Was it appropriate to place a cemetery, admittedly a sacred ground, near another sacred place associated with a vital food gathering area?Barbadoes Cemetery

So those are my tales for Saturday’s gallivanting. * When I came home I tried to find more information on the area but the best I could locate was in


As a final note, I return to the beginning of this post and my reference to my ties to the United Kingdom. When I visited Scotland and England for the first time, I felt ‘home’ and grounded when I travelled the land. There is much to be said for ancient bonds between a person and their land. The old threads hold stronger than we think and the new weavings take forever to come together to form a warm and comforting mantle.