I love the smell of bread, especially the moment when you open the oven door. The smell gives me a deep sense of satisfaction of being a home maker, tending to the hearth (and heart) and soul of our home and its people!
I have been holding bread making classes for the last two years at our home to share some practical skills around bread baking. I also enjoy sharing my passion for bread baking and what it stands for: The metaphor for ‘comm-unity’, of coming together around the table, and baking and breaking bread as a picture of peace, reconciliation and unity. When baking sourdough bread, I find other metaphors for life, such as the importance of taking time and of caring for your ‘culture’. The culture (also called starter or leaven) is at the core of sourdough baking and lives on and on, beyond the initial loaf of bread, and is often shared widely around the community.
My classes may be advertised as “bread baking classes”, but often they become something else. The ten participants, who may have never met before, begin to connect and share stories as they knead bread. Magic happens when people gather around a table telling their stories! “Oh what? You, too? Shall we meet up for coffee next week and talk about it more!”, and a new connection is made!
Last year, in August 2017 during one of my classes, Judy Frost-Evans from Pukerua Bay told us the story of Parihaka and its connection to baking bread. As mostly Pakeha, we knew the story in principle, about the Maori settlement that in the 1800s was a vibrant and sustainable community, under the leadership of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi, based on the principles of non-violence and peace, as well as equality, community, identity, good will and self-sufficiency.
This was when confiscation and violence was raging around them. We were deeply moved to hear that on the day before an anticipated violent advance by the constabulary on 5 November 1881, the people of Parihaka baked 500 loaves of bread. The following morning, women and children stood there singing their waiata with their baskets full of bread, welcoming the 1600 soldiers and policemen. The peaceful welcome was not responded to in-kind. The settlement was destroyed, many women and children were raped and the men were taken and shipped away down south where they were held captive for two years under inhumane circumstances. Many never returned. However a few did, and they were reunited with their women and the story and spirit of Parihaka survived. Much later, negotiations lead to the reconciliation event in June 2017, where the Crown apologised to the people of Parihaka for the past horrors they suffered. The apology included a reconciliation package to offer support for the future.
Around our table, a spontaneous idea arose to gather in remembrance of that event on 4 November and bake bread in the spirit of Parihaka. And so that is what we did in 2017!
It was a small informal gathering at my home with some of my bread baking students, family and friends. We baked all sorts of bread during the afternoon, and then at 5.00pm we gathered around the principles of Parihaka and shared how we experience each principle, sharing our own stories of peace, of reconciliation and forgiveness. The principles of Parihaka are profound. My husband Bob added his beautiful photos, matching the intention of each principle, and we made them into cards.
We then had a potluck dinner and, of course, broke some freshly baked bread together. Yum!
Everyone went home with extra loaves to give away the next day, the 5th November, to someone special, or someone that we were having a challenging relationship with or someone we had never met!
We created an event to commemorate a shameful and inspiring incident in the history of Aotearoa!
We will do it again this year and would love to encourage others to invite family, friends and neighbours around their kitchen table to bake bread in the spirit of Parihaka, and give it all away the next day!!
However, before promoting this wider, we were keen to learn more. The Parihaka community today is centred around three marae which continue the long-standing practice of holding monthly Rā (days) to discuss questions relevant to Parihaka as well as important issues facing iwi/hapū/whānau nationally and internationally. These are held on the 18th and 19th of each month, one day for each leader: Te Rāo Te Whiti o Rongomai on the 18th on and Te Rāo Tohu Kākahi on the 19th. Manuhiri (guests) are welcome to join.
Bob and I drove up to Taranaki to join for these two days in September 2018 and were given the opportunity to tell our story of what we did the previous year. We received feedback and new ideas, for example to give away some bread to a men’s prison to remember the prisoners of Parihaka. We deeply appreciated the warm welcome and hospitality and felt encouraged to do our simple home-based gathering again.
Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson intends to re-submit the Maori Party’s ‘Te Ra o Parihaka” bill (previously submitted by Marama Fox). This seeks to establish a national day of commemoration to recognise the importance of that day. Baking bread on this day could be a tangible action on such a day to symbolise the peaceful and reconciliatory approach for community building as role-modelled by Parihaka.
I hope that in a few years’ time this date will have become part of the yearly rhythm of Aotearoa, and on the November the 4th, all around you hear: “And where will you bake your bread on Parihaka eve? Do you want to come around to our home?”
Information taken from www.parihaka.maori.nz