'Among our own': Mandela's visit to Turangawaewae

Last updated 14:18 06/12/2013

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Nelson Mandela was only 18 months into his presidency when he toured New Zealand - and the feature for him was his visit to Turangawaewae Marae.

A crowd of 3000 gathered at the marae in Ngaruawahia, hosted by the Maori Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, on November 14, 1995.

The marae visit was the the highlight of his trip, he said.

"We feel truly welcome and among our own brothers and sisters," he said.

To be a guest of Maori was a great honour.

"As a people who have known deprivation, we do appreciate your efforts to redeem a past of dispossession and social dislocation that colonialism has wrought on your community."

His arrival at the marae was greeted by hundreds of children from local schools and kohanga reo lining the road outside. Many clutched palm leaves to wave at the motorcade.

Inside the marae he was treated to a traditional Maori welcome. Obviously moved by the event, Mandela nodded in understanding as Western Maori MP Koro Wetere explained the procedure, NZPA reported.

The official party, which included Mandela's daughter, Zenani Mandela Dlamini, police, and South African news media, were met on the meeting house veranda by Tuwharetoa paramount chief Sir Hepi Te Heuheu.

Once the formal part of the welcome was over, Mandela was entertained by a performance of traditional Maori action songs before moving off to look at the ceremonial waka on the Waikato River.

The walk across the marae to the waka proved a nightmare for security staff, who stuck close to the president as the crowd - hoping to shake hands with or touch him - surged forward.

His return walk to the meeting house was greeted with the same jubilation, but a smiling Mandela took it all in his stride, pausing to shake hands with as many people as he could.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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