The Russell Fire Ceremony is the brain child of my friend Howard Reti. Howard and I met during a hui at the Matapouri marae for the Tai Tokerau Maori Artists Collective. The goal of the hui was to establish/reconnect with other artists of the collective in the hopes to create a project to give the local tangata whenua a visual presence through artwork and through these works, voice their grievances in the bay.
I believe the steps we took that weekend inspired Howard to get his idea up off the ground. He approached me to help create a new website and instagram page which we both agreed was and integral part of what he wanted to achieve. Now i’m no web designer, i’ll be the first to admit that. But since we chose to make everything simple, minimalistic and easy to navigate, it made my job much easier. The creative designing and layout process was really enjoyable and the gratitude I received from Howard reassured me that I was on the right path with this project.
The reason I took on this project was after a korero with Howard, I realised what power his idea had. Russell and the Bay of Islands are a huge part of New Zealand history and during tours I’ve done in past, the guides gave a pretty basic history of the area. What was missing was a chance for visitors to get a story from a different perspective… the Maori perspective. Guest learn the history of the whenua and the effects that colonisation still has on the Northland community as well as the story of Mahuika and mythical origins of fire. Visitors are encouraged to give a gift to fire and share a hope or prayer to the group.
When I visited the Haratu Kororareka Marae to photograph the ceremony for the website i was blown away with the diversity of people taking part in the ceremony, people from all around the world came together and shared an authentic experience. What the Russell Fire Ceremony are doing is so important for the area and New Zealand as a whole. In these key historical areas of our country we need to be all inclusive, sharing stories from all angles and give Maori a presence and voice to speak to visitors so when they leave our shores they leave with a better understanding of who we are as a culture and a nation.
“Our goal is to keep the ancient fires burning, through unbroken whakapapa ties to this whenua”
You can visit the website at : https://www.russellfireceremony.com/ to book in advance for the ceremonies that will be running this summer from the 6th of December to the 28th April.