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Deeply symbolic pounamu accompanied Carmen

Wed 21 Dec 2011 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Carmen in the 1960s In a deeply significant gesture a small pounamu stone was placed in the hand of the late Carmen Rupe before her coffin was closed prior to yesterday's funeral. It has emerged that the stone was a gift from people of the Arahura Pa at Katiwaewae on the West Coast, a traditional source of the highest quality pounamu, or greenstone. In a gesture conferred on only a few, it was passed through the hands of a number of Carmen's wellwishers before being placed in her hand for her final journey. 'Arahura' approximately translates into english as 'pathway to the light.' A Kaitiaki of the pounamu from Arahura says says the stone has deep symbolism. "When the Arahura River floods it turns over the river bed which smooths the pounamu stones and brings them to the surface," he says. "Just as the river flows west towards the setting sun the pounamu itself becomes a pathway to the sunset." He explains that the handling of the pounamu is also meaningful. "When pounamu is handled the oil from each person's skin goes into it," he says. "For instance, pounamu necklaces are handed down through the generations and after a while we have generation upon generation of the ancestors in the stone." "Pounamu is special," the Kaitiaki adds, "when it is placed in a deceased person's hand that is a sign of significant respect. Some get it, many do not."    

Credit: Daily News

First published: Wednesday, 21st December 2011 - 3:10pm

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