It all began when I was six years old running around tables seemingly packed to collapse with trifles, a favourite dessert in New Zealand, particularly at Marae’s (tribal grounds) and big gatherings. There were a lot of trifle’s to be sure, but my memory of being eye level with the table made it seem as though I was in the company of Willy Wonka and all my sugary dreams had come true.
This was in the wharekai (eating house) of Rangiaohia Pa (the tribal grounds of Ngati Rangitihi, a hapu or sub-tribe of Te Arawa) and it really is the engine room of these large tribal gatherings. Food prep well underway like a well oiled machine to feed hundreds of people over three days - baskets and baskets of potato, kumera, and locally sourced livestock and sometimes wild boar from the hills behind Matata, the small town in New Zealand’s eastern Bay of Plenty where my father and his family are from.
It was in watching the people in this moment, and other moments much more profound, which were to be repeated again and again as my height continued to outstrip that of the trifles position on the table, that drove my fascination with the disparity between the two cultures in which I lived. Social co-operation, a great strength in Maori culture, showed just how much can be achieved when people work together for a common goal. As I grew older I began to understand the why and how of what made all this work.
Hapu represents my learnings from this experience.
And it’s been my hope ever since those days amongst the trifles that I might, in some way, bring what I saw back to my other home. For my other people.
I hope I’ve done so in creating hapu.
Ben Edward Manu Marr
CEO & Founder of hapu