11, 12 & 13 January @ Parihaka, Taranaki

‘Haere mai e te motu me te aao, kia kite koe i te puapua’

Draw close, welcome, people of the land people of the world, so you can see the source of song…

I’m sitting on the hillside surrounded by babies, kids, mums, dads and grandmas. Huge silk flags flap in the wind, the sky is slowly turning pink as the sun sinks over the west coast. The iconic outline of Mt Taranaki is silhouetted against a dusty grey sky, green conical hills dotted with black and white cows. Katchafire are playing one of their best sets ever; while pockets of the crowd call back at the tops of their voices ‘shine eye girl, the one that I never know’.

On the hillside opposite, hundreds of tiny solar powered lights map out the Milky Way in an art installation. The hangi is being put down in a pit by the river.  Huge plumes of smoke rise into the sky.  The men stand around and watch while laughing kids jump into the river fully clothed. I can’t help imagining this pa a hundred and fifty years ago. This is Parihaka.

The vision of Parihaka 08 was ‘to bring together the collective experience of people who have fought for justice, peace and an equitable place in the world’.  This kaupapa definitely shined through at the festival, with the message being spread through music, dance, art, spoken word, education, eco workshops, children’s circus, film, healing and of course kai.

The Parihaka International Peace Festival brings together a diverse range of people to share and celebrate the theme of peace. The festival showcased the best of Aotearoa homegrown, with acts like Homefire Burning, Katchafire, House of Shem, Cornerstone Roots and Unity Pacific representing the full spectrum of roots reggae in Aotearoa right now.

Dam Native, Upper Hutt Posse, Native Sons, Ladi6 and Basscamp brought the hip-hop, Hollie Smith the soul and gospel, while Little Bushman took the audience on a psychedelic trip into rock. Performance was a big part of Moana and the Tribe’s set, with taiaha wielding warriors storming the stage.  Olmecha Supreme played a supreme set, jamming some tight afrobeat complete with hot dancers, and a ninja movie track (with a real ninja!) and some killer break-dancing.

The speakers’ forums provided a space to reflect on recent events in Aotearoa and parallels with the legacy of Parihaka. Moana Jackson made links between the 2002 Suppression of Terrorism Act, which allowed the recent Tuhoe ‘terror raids’; and the Suppression of Rebellion Act passed in 1863, which allowed the invasion of Parihaka Pa.  It was sobering to realise the same mistakes are still being made this century.

Positive change was a focus of the festival, with the eco-forum offering workshops in building earth ovens and how to reduce your carbon footprint.  I was impressed with the calibre of expertise and the open and interactive style of the workshops.

The artwork at Parihaka is a real highlight.  There was a range of interactive light works installations.  Huge flashing tikis made of lights graced the dance zone and star constellations lit up the many hillsides. Late at night, a group people dressed in light suits tumbled down hillsides, played soccer with a huge lit up ball and turned cart wheels.  It was these sensory touches that created such a rich and beautiful experience.

Nga mihi nui to the organisers of Parihaka 2008.  I can’t wait to come back!