Dinner with Ra

Dinner with Ra, Maori elder, was a multi-dimensional gift. Ra’s mother named him for the sun (and his sister for the moon) and the name fit on multiple levels. Ra is round like the sun and warm like the sun, and much kinder than the sub-tropical New Zealand sun, which is more blank and pitiless in mid-day than anywhere I’ve been.

First, Gaye and Michael, our lovely hosts, and Ra’s good friends, fired up the bbq with lamb chops and lamb sausages, grown on the farm- unnamed critters, because, once named, those lambs aren’t served at table- Michael’s rule. Here’s a close-up of Adora, the lovely jersey cow that sensed my phone tasted delicious, who can expect longevity.

Ra, excellent listener, asked us about our art + science residency with great interest and sincerity. Among shared many fascinating details of his hitchhiking trip to the US in 1987, and that half of his rides in the evenings would invite him to spend the night at their homes- this made me feel patriotic.

Ra spoke compellingly about the whagungatanga concept, loosely translated as ‘interconnectedness’ and community, perhaps really not fully translatable to us Pākehā (white people). He described some of the mechanics of the the long speechifying that is Maori custom. Last week, in Wellington, we happened into the ceremony that opened the biannual New Zealand Festival of the Arts. This hour long Maori language cultural event was spectacular. Having Ra’s expertise to interpret our rich experience was super useful. The festival posted a short vid of the long event, which I will share in another post.