Bowie 'treated like family' by aunties on marae

8:39 pm on 12 January 2016

Paula Collins was just a child when she led the haka powhiri for David Bowie at Takapūwāhia Marae 33 years ago. In the wake of the rock star's death this week, she remembers the 1983 visit.

David Bowie during the whaikorero at Takupuwaahia Marae in Porirua in 1983.

David Bowie during the whaikorero at Takupuwaahia Marae in Porirua in 1983. Photo: Image courtesy of Ngati Toa

Ms Collins, whose family has a long history with the Ngati Toa Marae Takapūwāhia, fondly remembers two things from the day Bowie visited them in Porirua - his different-coloured eyes and her aunties bossing him around the marae.

Back then she was just 12 years old when she stood nervously behind her Aunty Rihia Kenny, as the superstar and his group were welcomed on to her marae.

"We had a little kapa haka [performing arts] group down at the pa every Tuesday. I'd get on the bus after intermediate and go on down there and we heard we were going to have this powhiri [welcome] for David Bowie and I can remember all the aunties being really excited about it."

One of her aunts called Bowie on to Takapūwāhia marae, and once the karanga had finished Ms Collins' job was to lead the haka powhiri.

"It was really exciting, it was sort of the thing of the year really. I can remember standing there - I was the kaea [leader] of the group and we'd been practising our haka powhiri, our aunties did the karanga and I remember him coming through."

She said the marae was full to the brim.

"I can remember standing out the front of the wharenui and people were just hanging off the fences, I've never seen the place like it in my life just swarming with people."

Some of the crowd at Takapūwāhia Marae, including 12-year-old Paula Collins, seen in the pink jacket in the centre of the group.

Some of the crowd at Takapūwāhia Marae, including 12-year-old Paula Collins, seen in the pink jacket in the centre of the group. Photo: Ngati Toa

She said the event was so special, her Nan dressed her in her prized greenstone taonga [necklace], which she wore with a full piupiu skirt and woven bust.

And while he was a superstar, Ms Collins recalls her aunties treating him like one of the family.

"One of my aunties loved taking photos even back then and she was bossing him and his group around like aunties do - pushing them along and taking these photos which she still has. The thing I remember though is his different-coloured eyes. I remember being up close and thinking 'wow that's really amazing'.

"It was definitely my privilege to be there with my Takapuwahia whanau who manaaki manuhiri so beautifully and with much aroha.

"I think when we treat even our rock stars as one of the whanau, we celebrate everyone for who they are, how they make us feel, and not what they do. It was a great lesson in life for me back then."

She said she did not recognise the song that Bowie sang to them but in an interview one of Bowie's musicians Frank Simms said they wrote the tune the night before.

And as Takapūwāhia whanau remembers one of the world's biggest stars other New Zealand musicians have too, with Lorde and Brooke Fraser both paying tribute to him today.

David Bowie was 69 and died yesterday after an 18-month battle with cancer.

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