Residents enjoy a real feast of culture

A cold mid-winter evening did not deter something approaching 2000 locals from turning out last Friday to two quite distinct cultural events in the community.   

Up to 1500 people descended on downtown Bankart St for Raglan Four Square’s fourth Indian Cultural Night, feasting at long rows of tables and chairs on vegetarian fare trucked down from the Sikh temple in Takanini.

Meanwhile hundreds more converged on Raglan Area School for a Matariki exhibition honouring te ao Maori through art, poetry, waiata and thousands of lights.

The plunging temperatures saw some people coming and going from the supermarket reasonably quickly, but not before dining out in the carpark to the strains of traditional Indian music and taking in a performance or two of an Indian bhangra dance by a young troupe from the Bay of Plenty Sports & Cultural Club.

Satnam Bains, who has thrown himself into the local community since taking over the then newish Four Square five years ago, was pleased with the response.

 “It went really well and there was food for everyone,” he said.  He could only estimate how many came by the number of plates organisers gave out (to those queuing) but put the total number at between 1400 and 1500.

Satnam told the Chronicle the free annual event – which couldn’t be held last year because of Covid restrictions – was a way in which his family could share their Indian culture with the town. 

His mother, Shaminder Kaur, used to prepare all the food in the small kitchen above the supermarket, but now she manages and oversees the whole operation from the kitchens of New Zealand’s largest Sikh temple which traditionally feeds a couple of thousand guests every weekend. 

Friday night’s menu – served buffet-style – included a lentil curry (dahl), a chickpea curry, chapati/roti and a traditional Indian pudding called rice kheer.

Meantime staff and students at Raglan Area School hosted their most comprehensive Matariki exhibition yet, attracting more than 400 visitors with interactive art installations, light displays, music, sculptures, a bonfire, hangi and soup. 

“It was a huge turnout … far more than we expected,” said principal Louisa Barham.

Without the Covid restrictions of last year’s exhibition, teachers Celeste Cleason (music) and Kerry Alridge (visual arts) collaborated in an all-out effort to help bring the community together in a memorable celebration of the Maori New Year.

Deputy principal Quentin Browne opened the evening with a karakia while the roopu students sang waiata and performed kapa haka, Kerry told the Chronicle. “We had sculpture, we had thousands of lights, we had poetry, there was projection … lanterns, a glow-in-the-dark room, smoke machines, music, students’ own written songs about Matariki and lots of magic,” she enthused.

“All Raglan Area School staff have been fully supportive of this kaupapa and that’s a tribute to us as a kura,” Kerry added.

Matapihi Kindergarten also celebrated Matariki in style the following night, attracting 200 children and their families to its bush-clad site and mini lake off Te Mata Rd.

A bonfire, shared kai and soup, waiata and the children’s own backlit installations ensured this year’s annual event was “definitely next level”, said a kindergarten staffer. The evening was  topped off with a “magical” walk through the forest to look at all the fairy lights.

She heard one local dad describe the celebration as “better than Elvis” and another as “Matariki-lishous!”

Edith Symes