25 Jan 2013

Ratana celebrations wind down

8:16 pm on 25 January 2013

Formal parts of the Ratana Church celebrations near Whanganui wrapped up late on Friday with the morehu or church members attending their final whakamoemiti or worship service.

Over three dayshundreds of visitors to Ratana Pa celebrated the birthday of the church's founder, Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, who was born on 25 January 1873.

Among the VIPs were a group of native Ainu people from northern Japan who rekindled the 88-year- old link the church has with Japan since T.W Ratana visited there in 1924.

A senior Ratana Church member, Ruia Aperahama, says their visit was very important.

Bishop Juji Nakata opened the Ratana Temepara or Temble in 1927 and researchers have discovered that he was also of Ainu descent.

Mr Aperahama thanked Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell for taking up the challenge he gave him last year after his visit to Japan to Hokkaido - the home island of the Ainu - to bring them to this year's event.

During Friday evening the lighter side of the celebrations continued with live entertainment on the centre stage including bands, kapa haka and a talent quest.