WOMAD (World of Music and Dance) has become an addiction! For the third year in a row, we held a family reunion at the TSB Bowl of Brooklands, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth. For the duration of the festival, we adopted a tree under whose shade we met up for lunch and dinner. It left each of us free to go our own way for the rest of the day.
From there we could watch the wondrous and seemingly endless passing parade of Womadders dressed in an extraordinary variety of hippie and ethnic outfits. By the second day, as you do, I had joined in and donned my sequinned jacket.
To be honest I’m over spending the whole day sitting amongst the crowds on the grass listening to (sometimes very loud) music. But there was so much else to do at WOMAD that there was never a boring moment! Here are some of my personal highlights.
Womad overflows with food from many different cultures. I love dosa so I headed off to Kathakali for a masala dosa, a crisp savoury South Indian pancake filled with potato dhal.
There was a big queue at the Lalele Organic Gelato stall as the weather was sunny (although not as searingly hot as last year). But it was worth the wait. Their raspberry, coconut and rosemary gelato was cooling and delicious.
You could find a good cup of coffee at WOMAD, do a beer tasting or indulge in a cider or wine but Misterchai’s Choco chai was the best, a smooth blend of Dominican Republic Fair Trade cocoa and Ayurvedic spices.
The last person I expected to find on the stage of Taste the World (The Nova Energy Theatre) was Tame Iti. But he is a passionate cook who loves to prepare meals for his mokopuna. While he demonstrated (ably assisted by Jax Hamilton of Masterchef fame) the art of making rewena (traditional sourdough potato bread) and kina he kept us spellbound with stories about his earlier life. As a young Maori man he was sent on a three-year training course by the Government to learn to be an interior decorator. After that, he said with a grin he moved onto the next phase of his life: ‘radicalism”.
You could shop till you drop at Womad, ethnic clothing, sunhats including ones made from hemp, jewellery, bamboo toothbrushes and much more. I couldn’t resist a pair of dangly earrings from the Shimshai Trust which supports education in Northern Pakistan and a quirky little handmade poetry book called ‘Good Things” from David Merrill, the travelling poet who makes a living from selling his work at festivals and markets.
Celebrating our indigenous culture is very much part of WOMAD. At Te Paepae (a festival site hosted by Taranaki Maori) you could watch a virtual powhiri through 3D goggles, have a temporary moko, learn some te reo and go to free workshops in flax weaving and create taniko panels.
There was also a unique opportunity to have a cuppa and a chat with a Maori elder for half an hour and have any questions you had about Maori tikanga answered. I had the privilege of sitting down with a remarkable Maori lady who explained that when she was growing up whangai was common so many of her brothers and sisters were adopted out and brought up by extended family.
When her unmarried niece found herself pregnant a few years ago she begged her to look after her baby (which turned out to be twins!) and she agreed to carry on the whangai tradition although she already had one other adopted child.
In the workshops, musicians talked about their music making in a most entertaining way and gave us a taste of their music. In this more intimate environment, there was often an opportunity for audience participation.
I caught the tail end of the Zumba workshop and suddenly found myself surrounded by an exuberantly swaying snake of Zumba dancers.
My favourite workshop was by Violons Barbares, a trio from Bulgaria, France, and Mongolia who are creating a new kind of music together full of energetic rhythms and harmonies. The Mongolian demonstrated how he uses his throat to do some incredible overtone singing. The Frenchman pulled one of his home made percussion instruments apart. I would never have guessed that it was made from a biscuit tin filled with all sorts of found objects.
A most amazing character was wandering around WOMAD looking like the reincarnation of a Viking. He happened to be in the Living Library when I dropped in. Here you could book an author for a 30-60 minute chat.
Intrigued I sat down beside him and discovered that he was actually Dr .
Hans-Dieter Bader, an archaeologist, which just goes to prove that you should never judge a living book by its cover!
He introduced me to a whole new world of how archaeological projects are done these days, not through digging but by means of non- intrusive geomagnetic surveys.
The World of Words:
This was the venue for the quest for the Poetry Slam Champ. Poets Peggy Ashton, Matt Harvey and Tusiata Avia were the judges and performed some of their own work as well. The winner’s poem was about his appallingly bad driving which led to his wife walking off and swapping him for another man who just happened to have a Ferrari! He had the whole audience in stitches.
At the End of the Day:
I spent the last evening of WOMAD with my partner sitting in front of some of the big stages listening to the music. There was a party atmosphere with many of the audience from little kids to octogenarians dancing along to the beat.
We’d had very different WOMAD experiences. He’d spent all his time going from stage to stage to watch his favourite performers. I’d enjoyed spending more time at workshops and cookery shows and meeting some very interesting people. But we’d both had such a good time at WOMAD that we’ve already decided to go again next year. Our daughter, son and his partner are coming as well. So we’ll be back under our tree for another family reunion!
By Lyn Potter
Lyn is an Avid Traveller (both local and international), always with a camera at the ready.