Food for thought as preschoolers learn hangi skills

Uptown Preschool's Indi Anderson gets ready to enjoy the hangi as part of the centre's Matariki celebrations.
PAULA HULBURT/FAIRFAX NZ

Uptown Preschool's Indi Anderson gets ready to enjoy the hangi as part of the centre's Matariki celebrations.

Preschoolers in Marlborough have pitched in to help prepare a hangi while learning all about its special cultural significance for Matariki.

Te Ati Awa member Patrick Norton learnt about laying down a hangi from his grandfather.

Keen to pass on the tradition, he visited Blenheim's Uptown Preschool where his wife, Leigh, is a teacher.

Excited children learnt about the custom before getting a chance to help prepare the vegetables and taste the spoils of their work.

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While traditional hangi is cooked using heated rocks buried in a pit oven, the preschool had to rely on a more modern-day method as there was no room to build a pit.

Passing on the skills needed to lay down a hangi, Patrick Norton visited Uptown Preschool as part of their Matariki ...
PAULA HULBURT/FAIRFAX NZ

Passing on the skills needed to lay down a hangi, Patrick Norton visited Uptown Preschool as part of their Matariki celebrations.

But traditional methods of preparation were still used, with both meat and vegetables wrapped separately in cloths and sacks to lock in the moisture. 

Teacher Leigh said the children were "fascinated" by the process.

"We've been learning about Matariki and how it was a time for people to get together with their whanau and celebrate the harvest and put food aside for the coming year.

Uptown Preschool children Cristina Fernandez-Puertas, left, and Amelia Old enjoy the hangi.
PAULA HULBURT/FAIRFAX NZ

Uptown Preschool children Cristina Fernandez-Puertas, left, and Amelia Old enjoy the hangi.

"Some of our children have some knowledge about this and have been taking a lead in teaching the others.

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"It's about celebrating where we come from and sharing knowledge."

The Maori new year is marked by the rise of Matariki, a group of stars also known as the Pleiades star cluster, or The Seven Sisters.

Matariki was traditionally used to determine the coming season's crop. A warmer season, and therefore a more productive crop yield, was indicated by how bright the stars were.

Uptown Preschool head teacher Amanda Preece says it is great for children to learn about the significance of Matariki.

"Leigh worked so hard to provide a wonderful opportunity for the Uptown tamariki.

"This is exactly what Matariki is about for our centre – a time to come together and celebrate together."

Matariki is on June 25.

 - The Marlborough Express

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