Kaihaukai – Simon Kaan, Ron Bull (Jnr), Priscilla Cowie and Nathan Pohio


Kaihaukai is a term that describes the sharing and exchanging of traditional foods – an important customary practice for Māori. The Kaihaukai project centres on Ngāi Tahu mahika kai and relates to working with traditional foods in their place of origin, which includes preparation, gathering, eating and sharing. Mahika kai assists in the transfer of knowledge and continuation of cultural practices; some of which are at risk of being lost.  It is a way to learn about and connect with whenua, awa, roto and moana.

The initial inception of Kaihaukai was the setting up of the website http://www.kaihaukai.co.nz. It was then developed into a cultural food exchange between the people of Ngāi Tahu and the Native American Pueblo people of New Mexico in 2012, facilitated by Simon Kaan and Ron Bull Jnr.

For Christchurch an exchange of food, knowledge and art practices took place on the banks of Te Ōtākaro (Avon) on a former important market site, Markety or Victoria Square in the CBD, celebrating and rejuvenating stories around mahika kai o Ngāi Tahu alongside contemporary stories associated with the area.  The project included Ngāi Tahu whanui from the rohe as well as from around the motu, along with local school children, Ngāi Tahu artists and other local community.

On 29 November at Tuahiwi Marae and school a one-day workshop was run with Te Kura o Tuahiwi tamariki to make flags that tell stories of the iwi mahinga kai. This involved printing images onto flags, to be then suspended on Saturday at Market Square and at the TEZA hub. Nathan Pohio collaborated by bringing his project ‘Waitaha Wai’, moving something as temporal and ephemeral as water across space.

On 30 November a one-day event occured on the banks of Te Papawiai Ōtakoro.

Stories and ideas informed an art-making workshop that involved drawing on river sticks using oil pastels, weaving, jewellery cutting and found objects.  These sticks were to then be placed as transitional markers at significant sites. The ‘ko’ digging stick is a symbol of cultivation but can also be seen as a transitional marker that references migratory and seasonal travel that is intrinsic to Ngai Tahu identity.  It is also a powerful symbol for the iwi referencing ancestor Rākaihautū in his sculpting of whenua.

Kai was brought from throughout the rohe and motu and prepared and shared, including traditional mahinga kai o Ngai Tahu. This included tuna (eel, seen in the Okatiro nearby that day), inanga (whitebait), mussels, kina and paua. The sharing of food included the gifting of non-perishable food in exchange for the traditional foods. The non-perishable food was distributed to a New Brighton food bank afterwards by TEZA.


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