On Saturday the 21st of March a Pakeke ball was held in honour of pakeke aged 80 years and over, who were either Ngati Porou, married into Ngati Porou or who lived within the rohe. Over one hundred people attended the event, including 28 pakeke from the East Coast, Gisborne, Wellington, Wanganui, Kawerau and Auckland.
Supporters watched proudly as the pakeke (dressed in their finest evening attire) walked along a red carpet the length of Uepohatu, to be presented to Bishop Brown and Mrs Mihi Turei. They were escorted either by whanau or students from Ngata College and TKKM o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou.
These pakeke were brought up in the era of balls. The Church would host debutante balls which saw young women coming out into society. Queen Carnivals were also run to raise funds for various projects. Rev Pane Kawhia was on the organising committee and hought that this was a fitting way to honour this generation of pakeke. She says, “We hired a full band to play old time music; a red carpet for pakeke to walk down; and served a sumptuous meal where they could be waited on. We wanted to create an atmosphere where they would feel really special and for a few moments in their lives, all eyes would be upon them as they walked the red carpet.”
When asked by Rev Pane how did it feel to walk the red carpet, one pakeke responded that her self-esteem went from being as low as her feet, to being way beyond her head. On hearing this, the organising committee felt a great sense of satisfaction and a sense of their mission having been accomplished. One mokopuna commented on how wonderful it felt when she was asked for the honour of a dance by her grandfather. Rev Pane says, “This was the first time in her life that someone had asked her for a dance. She now wants to help organise the next event and intends purchasing a ball gown!”
Above: The Pakeke Ball brought back fond memories for Sir Hirini and Lady June Mead (seen on left hand side of image being presented to Bishop Brown and Mrs Mihi Turei). As a young woman in the 1960s, Lady June attended a ball at Uepohatu where she was presented as a debutante. That same evening Sir Hirini proposed to her and she accepted.
Unfortunately many of the pakeke were not able to dance the old time dances such as the gay gordon and pale-glide, but they were able to tap their toes as Peter Te Kani and his band played old and familiar tunes. An Elvis impersonator also brought a rock n roll flavour to proceedings and was very entertaining.
Rev Pane said the organising committee were thrilled at the outcome and felt that coming together from the various communities along the Coast and working in a spirit of unity was a highlight for them. She reflects, “All in all, it was a great night. Requests have been flowing in for another Ball, especially from people who didn't attend, and this is a strong possibility for 2016. Other communities are welcome to pick this kaupapa up."
“We would also like to thank and acknowledge: the Hikurangi Sports Club who set up the hall, catered and cleaned up, all without charge; Te Hui Amorangi ki te Tairawhiti; Natural Solutions; Hikurangi Foodmarket; Makere Smith and Flo Beach who contributed to the gift packs that were handed to each pakeke; Radio Ngati Porou for their koha; Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou for use of resources and staff; and not forgetting the rangatahi who came to serve. Nga mihi nui ki a koutou katoa."