2019 New Cal George and the Tea Kanake Pathway
George and Tea Kanake
On the Kanak Pathway
Symbolism is an important part of the Kanak tradition as you can imagine; Tea Kanake was the first Kanak person, he founded the nation and yet true to his origins he is half human half reptile and stage one of his life and the pathway begins at the pretty pond, the water source surrounded by mangroves from which he emerged.
The flora along the pathway includes the abundance of plants that were on the unspoilt site of the Tina Peninsula and were instrumental in the choice for the new Centre. Many other plants relevant to the story and endemic to the island were brought in as work progressed and the mature Araucaria Columnar Pines were transplanted to the site. I would have like to watch that operation.
The job of the flora is to illustrate the second stage which looks at the mother earth that provides food and nourishment. Kanake and his male and female mentors moved onto the farmed terraces and showed the taro and yam plants. When used as a gift the taro is passed gently into a woven mat that Kanake is holding, symbolising the union of man and woman.
The design of the pathway and garden was an interesting project and not only were the Elders asked about the traditions but the links with other islands and Pacific Nations were established as well. As Rob and I have travelled through Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and now here we have noted the importance of yams, taro, papaya and bananas and so on, not just as food but as connections with the way of life of the ancestors and in their other uses, the leaves in ceremonial costumes, matting and clothes for example.
Another character wearing a mask enters the garden and prepares to receive a dead person, under the woven mat to his left. He sits guarding the deceased until all is ready in the after-life for him to enter and join his ancestors. That was stage three and four.
Accompanying us on this trip was George our laid back and jovial guide in his symbolically orange shirt, close to the colour of the soil and the sunrise and a group of school children from Australia with their teachers on a school trip. Seeing the story unfold through their eyes was nice, no doubt it would make a lasting impression on some of them at least.
At the final stage, the rebirth, Kanake’s mentors are showing him how to play skittles using pine cones and twigs set in the ground, how to be a child and learn from play.
Time came for the photo call and anyone willing was invited to join the story tellers as they chanted a traditional song.
We continued on through the grounds to the hill overlooking the entire site. If you remember from the blog about Jean-Marie Tjibaou, his statue stands atop this hill with a permanent view of the centre, a poignant substitute for the real person.
The slope back down was sufficiently grassy so the children were allowed to run towards the last area that George had to show us and that Rob and I had already explored after our lunch, the Mwakaa, the ceremonial grounds, fenced with a wall of logs and containing three fine houses, displaying the strength and beauty of the Kanak architecture.