SPECIAL MOMENT: Te Rau Aroha

Feb. 18, 2020, 9:26 p.m.

As the sun began to set over Te Pēwhairangi and the crowd that had gathered to watch the New Zealand Defence Force performance were showing their appreciation to the servicemen and women for an hour and a half of parading, singing and beautiful imagery on the large screens, an ope of Māori performers descended upon the Treaty Grounds. 

Led by Mori Rapana, Cultural Manager at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the group performed a haka and were joined by the New Zealand Defence Force Cultural Group. 

A solo singer, supported by the Defence Force band, begins a waiata 'Te Rau Aroha' dedicated to the soldiers of the 28 Māori Battalion. The song links together the Defence Force performance, an old canteen truck used during World War II that took centre stage and the newly opened Museum all called 'Te Rau Aroha' - 'The Gift of Love'. 

Rapana steps forward and begins to speak directly to Robert 'Bom' Gillies, one of the two remaining soldiers from the 28 Māori Battalion. 

'Ki a koe e te rangatira, e te pāpā, te tamaiti a Tū, e Bom. Ānei āu mokopuna, e whakamānawa atu nei ki a koe. Mōu, mō rātou, mō koutou tēnei waiata.' (To you, esteemed leader, father, son of Tū, Bom. Here are your descendants, paying tribute to you. This song is for you, for them, for all of you.) 

He then kneeled in front of Bom Gillies, who was seated between Willie Apiata VC and Prime Minister Jacinda Adern, with arms and tiripou extend. When Gillies reaches out to take the tiripou, Rapana holds on and exchanges words with the veteran. Only a small group of people heard what was said in that exchange, but one can make out the final words said by Gillies 'Mo ake tonu atu!' (Forever!).

This moment was the conclusion of a day of commemorations for the Māori soldiers that fought in wars throughout New Zealand's history and is a symbol of the love and appreciation given and felt by all that day.

The performance closed with a haka and then more servicemen and women, the Defence Force band members, joined the rest of the performers in front of the special guests and public for a moving performance of the New Zealand Defence Force haka. 

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