ROBERT HARDMAN: Kiwi conch-blowers and swaying Maoris marked the quirkiest day in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey experienced its most unusual day in recent memory on Monday as New Zealand's Maori welcome ceremony, the powhiri, took place in the Abbey's nave.
The occasion was the first official visit by a New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, to the United Kingdom. The powhiri marked her arrival and included the blowing of conch shells and the swaying of Maori warriors in traditional dress.
Robert Hardman, writing for the Daily Mail, was on hand to witness the occasion and described it as an “unforgettable moment”. He noted that it was an “extraordinary fusion of cultures – ancient and modern, East and West, sacred and secular”.
The ceremony began with a conch shell being blown three times, which Hardman described as a “triumphant sound that echoed off the ancient walls”. The Maori warriors then performed the haka, a traditional war dance, which was greeted with applause from the Abbey's congregation.
The powhiri was just one of the many highlights of the day, which also included a formal meeting with the Queen and a speech by Prime Minister Ardern. But it was the powhiri which left the deepest impression, as Hardman wrote: “It was a majestic fusion of two distinct cultures, coming together in a place of worship which has stood for centuries”.
This truly was the quirkiest day in Westminster Abbey's long and illustrious history, and a moment which will live on in the memories of those who were lucky enough to witness it.