Rob Ritchie played a part in organising the recent Parihaka Day service at the Interim Cathedral. It occurred five months after then-mayor Andrew Judd led a procession to the coastal settlement, and it was 135 years to the day after the settlement was invaded by British forces. He reflects on the service and its ‘found poem.’
On November 5 a beautiful reunion occurred at the Interim Cathedral/St Mary’s Peace Hall between two Parihaka Hikoi participants: Sue and Chris and two of their hosts: Rita and Whakairitaua. People from the congregation of the cathedral gathered with some residents of Parihaka to commemorate Parihaka day.
This small group kindly agreed to reminisce publicly about the experience of their welcome on Toroanui marae, at Parihaka on Friday 17 June.
Surrounding this small group in the cathedral were approximately 40 others, with clip-boards and open hearts, ready to record words and phrases which touched their hearts as the four spoke.
This larger group took the role of witnesses: to the memories of apprehension and excitement when Rita and Whakairitaua prepared for the arrival of several hundred walkers; two of whom were now sitting opposite them.
All four speakers recalled a joyful, memorable afternoon when the drum-beat sounded and former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd, wearing his mayoral chains, led the hikoi into Parihaka.
Phrases which touched those listening at the cathedral were gathered into the following ‘found’ poem where the poet simply writes what she or he hears from someone else; nothing more.
A Found Poem for Parihaka:
Blessing the chains
Feeling of oneness
Seizing the moment
And the planet
Honouring each other
Past present future
No more bloodshed
“I am for peace”
Bringing the past forward