It’s not often a world renowned musician meets fans for a hāngī. 

But that is what cellist Yo-Yo Ma did in Christchurch on Tuesday, celebrating the land, river and natural environment before his evening performance.

His Bach Project concert at the city’s Town Hall is his first time playing in New Zealand.

A fan meets famous cellist Yo Yo Ma at a hāngī in The Commons beside Christchurch's Town Hall on Tuesday.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF

A fan meets famous cellist Yo Yo Ma at a hāngī in The Commons beside Christchurch’s Town Hall on Tuesday.

Ma, flanked by bodyguards, lined up to meet fans, sign autographs, talk to them and take selfies.

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He declined to speak to Stuff. An assistant said Ma was not doing interviews pre-show.

Lamb, silverside, chicken and vegetables were all available at the hāngī.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF

Lamb, silverside, chicken and vegetables were all available at the hāngī.

But in an earlier press release, Ma explained his Bach Project was intended to explore and celebrate “all the ways that culture makes us stronger as individuals, as communities and as a society and as a planet”.

Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri rūnanga​ chairman Arapata Reuben said Ma wanted to engage with the indigenous culture and mana whenua. 

“It’s just an opportunity to connect with one another, the hāngī’s the attraction, but really it’s around whakawhanaungatanga​, bringing people together,” he said.

Tuahiwi hāngī masters lift the hāngī from the pit at The Commons beside the Christchurch Town Hall.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF

Tuahiwi hāngī masters lift the hāngī from the pit at The Commons beside the Christchurch Town Hall.

Food for 300 people, including chicken, beef silverside, lamb, potato and carrots, were available.

Ma paid for the event but people were asked to give a gold coin to be donated to local causes.

Reuben said the hāngī pit had been up for about four months. 

Yo-Yo Ma wanted to put on a hāngī in Christchurch to promote the natural environment.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF

Yo-Yo Ma wanted to put on a hāngī in Christchurch to promote the natural environment.

It was part of “bringing our hāngī from our maraes and bringing in back into the city centre”, he said.

“Pre colonisation, we had lots of villages around here. Where there’s people, there’s food.”

Hāngī chef Grenville Pitama said a hāngī could be done for “anyone, anytime”.

“I think we did 1500 meals in under 12 minutes for TedX,” he said.



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