This was a special weekend: John Pule was in town for a poetry session with Hinemoana Baker at the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival, with me in the chair. It was a great session and the icing on the cake was him joining me to visit Christine Harvey, my kaitamoko and her whanau (sorry, the macrons have died).
John signs his book, The Bond of Time for Karen Zelas at the Festival.
So this morning I drove to the hotel on Latimer Square and picked him up for the trip to North Beach. He’d had a long night and was doing well to be up for a session with Christine, her busy whanau and another tatau session with me. He had drawn for me a special symbol, which Christine was going to add to the right arm underneath the P-38 plane.
The original drawing for Christine to work from.
We made the introductions and John was surrounded by the tamariki, then we made our way to the work room for the mahi to begin. It was a great moment for me to have both these special friends in the same room: John who had led me into this journey, who had so generously created the designs from images I had given him that mattered to me; and Christine, who had faithfully and beautifully transferred them freehand with superb skill, onto my skin.
After a karakia, the waiata of Whirimako Black sweetened the room as Christine chose a fine needle and went to work. There wasn’t much room for the finely detailed design, no bigger than a $1.00 coin, but she managed it beautifully, of course. Not easy with the artist there watching, but of course, there was a warm and generous gaze on his part. With some photos taken of the work and of each other, soon we were done and closed with more prayers of gratitude.
John and I celebrate the finished work.
John and Christine, designer and tatau artist: two very special people.
And so we were done and went to join the tamariki for kai and a kapu ti: fish wings, stew on toast, banana cake, delicious. John was talking to Christine about her art and how she got into moko and people they both knew in that mahi. It was precious to see them both together, two artists sharing their gifts. The kids came and went, listening, asking questions and joining in.
John showed his tatau and recited a poem; I followed suit, showing the tamariki the purpose and the function of the images as stories. It was a moment in time, and one I won’t forget. Christine and her children, artists all. I know they are going to do many special things in this world.
Later she wrote to me in an email, “Ka mau te wehi e hoa lovely meeting John he tino humarie ia, I look forward to yummy poukeno with aku kiore paku paku, ka nui te mihi mai te whanau nei.” That pumpkin I took won’t last long then!
So we took our leave and I drove John to the airport; we talked about Tony Fomison and his links to the Samoan community in life and death, about my experiences with Samoan families in Christchurch in the 1970s and what riches they shared. Maori, Niueans, Samoans – how many gifts have we been given here? Come September 12th-14th, John and I will meet again in Waitakere for the Going West Festival, and we’ll do it all over again, but differently, artfully, all the way home. Mauri ora!
The artist’s touch: nga matimati o te kaitamoko.