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Iwi leaders to drive World Expo's first ever Festival of Indigenous and Tribal Ideas

Moana is a Local Democracy Reporter based in Whanganui

Ngahiwi Tomoana (right) with the Dubai Export delegation during an iwi-led business and cultural mission to the United Arab Emirates in 2018. Photo / Supplied

A small delegation from the Whanganui River tribes will support the hosting of a world-first event at Expo 2020 Dubai to aid the resurgence of Indigenous and tribal economies.

Māori leaders have partnered with the New Zealand Government to develop Te Aratini, the first ever Festival of Indigenous and Tribal Ideas at a World Expo, set to run at Expo 2020 Dubai in mid-November.

The initiative is being driven by the Iwi Chairs Forum, a coalition of independent iwi (tribal) chairs, supported by New Zealand at Expo, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and Te Puni Kōkiri. It is tagged as the flagship event for New Zealand's offering during the Expo 2020 Dubai "Tolerance & Inclusivity" theme week.

Iwi Chairs Forum spokesman Ngāti Kahungunu leader Ngahiwi Tomoana says Te Aratini is an Indigenous-led bid to reignite global connections and forge new trading relationships.

"The potential is to fast-track the development of a super-highway of trade among Indigenous peoples and tribal nations," Tomoana said.

"It is part of the evolution of what iwi Māori have been building for two decades: a cultural road to commerce with nations where there's strong cultural resonance, including South-East Asia and China, the Pacific islands, Australia, South and Central America, North America, Canada, Norway, Finland, Africa and others."

Indigenous values and principles are front and centre at the New Zealand Pavilion in Dubai. The pavilion has been designed in partnership with Whanganui River iwi. At its heart is the story of the Whanganui River, Te Awa Tupua, including the treaty claims that led to the river becoming the first in the world to gain legal rights of personhood in 2017.

At the end of September, a small group of Whanganui River iwi carried out a dawn ritual in Dubai to give rise to the mouri of the exhibition. And next month, the new chair of Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui, Sheena Maru, and Hayden Turoa will travel to Dubai to maintain the Whanganui River iwi relationship, uphold the mouri and guide understanding of the exhibition and the intent of the Awa Tupua legislation.

They will also support pōwhiri for the iwi delegation to Te Aratini, and Maru will deliver a presentation about Te Awa Tupua as part of the programme. Approximately 45 Māori and Pacific entrepreneurs, academics, scientists and policy representatives from Aotearoa will travel to Dubai for the three-day event.

Te Aratini is being co-hosted by the Iwi Chairs Forum and the New Zealand Government at the Expo 2020 Dubai Exhibition Centre from 17-19 November 2021. They will collaborate with other participating nations including Australia, Canada, the United States, Malaysia, Paraguay, Panama and the United Arab Emirates.


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