Monday, December 01, 2008

Ngati Ranana

I was invited to a Christmas concert in a Salvation Army hall on Saturday lunchtime. A bit different from my usual fare, you probably think... But this was a concert by an extraordinary community organisation called Ngati Ranana, which is a club for Maori people in London. Amazingly, there were well over 5o of them on stage, singing, dancing, chanting and war-dancing with total commitment and energy. It's very moving to see people from such a markedly minority group working so hard to celebrate their cultural identity from "back home". What's more, this group has been going for a full 50 years. One of their founders was there - an Elder of real dignity. And at the end she got up and danced with the grace of a sixteen year old.

I've often been struck by the way in which performing isn't an issue to people from First Nations cultures - it's so ingrained in the culture that people just do it. This Maori group had absolutely no hint of self-consciousness: even the men in their grass skirts. Fantastic.

Rosanna Raymond and I are plotting to involve this group in the opening ceremonial of Origins. They could welcome the artists to London in a way which makes sense to them as First Nations people, and show a clear link between the city and their homeland. Having seen and heard them, I'm pretty sure this will work like a dream.

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