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Standing in the morning sun outside Hoani Waititi marae in Waitakere, in my hometown in the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, I am thinking of a BBC news infographic. The trigger is the figure of the migratory bird.
When visitors are formally welcomed by Maori, indigenous New Zealanders, onto a marae or community meeting place, the figure of the migratory bird is invoked across the marae atea, the highly charged space in front of a whare hui, the meeting house. Participating in such a welcome as a visitor, I am interpellated as a bird by the karanga, the first call from the host side. The karanga, performed by a woman, traditionally a kuia, a woman elder, is high pitched. Its commencement dissolves the everyday social space of conversation and distraction as the tapping of a glass or a clearing of the throat might at closer quarters and in different circumstances. Across the distance of the open ground in front of the house, it can sound powerfully disembodied, the impersonal voice of ceremony focusing attention and invoking a particular kind of awareness. Although I only know a few words of Te Reo Maori, the Maori language, in the tuned, chanted call I recognise the term manuhiri naming me. Usually translated into English simply as 'visitors', I hear in it the Maori word manu, bird; a word I know first from local place names.1 It is as a freshly landed bird that I hear myself called forward. During the Northern summer in 2005 outbreaks of bird flu have been confirmed in Russia and Khazakstan, and fears reinforced that the deadly H1N5 virus might