Help, What do I do on the Marae?

Image Above: Ko Te Papaiouru te marae. Ko Tamatekapua te wharenui.

My grandfather was the poukōrero, the orator. My father was the kaiwero, the challenger who did the wero. My mother was the kaikaranga, the caller who performed the ceremonial call and we kids set the tables. Everyone had a job when manuhiri (visitors) came to the marae, which was to honour them with the mana, dignity and aroha they deserved. The same principles hold true today.

‘ Ehara I te rangatira, ki te kore te hāpai ō ki muri.’

‘ One is not a chief if there is no support behind them.’

When engaging with whānau on the marae what do I do?

Marae do not operate by themselves. People run marae. When a kaupapa (occasion) happens whānau or iwi kainga (home people) will man the kitchen. They do the work to prepare and put food on the table. Their support is because of whakapapa. The mana of the manuhiri is uppermost and ultimately the mana of their marae. Everyone pitches in to carry the load.

The following points are important to understand:

  • Tangi leave - Whānau have bills, rent and mortgages to pay. Being available to help and support a kaupapa is important too. Fulfilling the roles and responsibilities placed on whānau to support takes time, effort and money. Paid leave to do this is vital.

  • Hui duration - Sometimes people could be away for three days or more especially for a tangi. Be open and understanding of those helping out.

  • Koha of pūtea - Money is used to pay associated costs (food, power, gas, toilet necessities). A generous koha (offering/contribution/gift) is always helpful.

  • Koha of kai - Food brought to the occasion will be prepared and shared during the kaupapa.

  • Accommodation - If needed a koha of tents and marquees help to accommodate the kaupapa.

  • Āwhina - Every helping hand is appreciated. If you can, take up your used plates, tidy your area or grab a tea towel. You may get shooed away but your gesture will be appreciated.

The men and women of the paepae kōrero (orator’s bench) who welcome or speak on behalf of the manuhiri are the face of the kaupapa. They represent the mana of the people and through the kawa (protocols) and tikanga (practices) of the marae conduct their roles. They are the cultural capital of the tribe upholding its status, integrity and tradition. On marae throughout Aotearoa this expertise is dwindling so those that are available to carry the kaupapa are precious.

It is important to understand the following:

  • Kaumātua / kuia fees - Fulfilling the orator and karanga roles takes time, effort and money. If you have asked them to come in to help with your kaupapa then a koha that recognises their contribution should be remembered. They probably won’t expect it so surprise them.

  • Courteousness - Be available to welcome and acknowledge the paepae when they arrive at your venue. A simple greeting, ‘ tēnā koe (greetings to one person),’ hongi (pressing of the nose) and hariru (handshake) is sufficient. Add in a kihi (kiss) to the cheek of the kuia. An offer of a cup of tea is always appreciated. Sit and talk with them. This helps whanaungatanga (relationship building).

  • Dial a kaumātua - The term refers to the use of kaumātua by organisations who attempt to be culturally responsive and bi-cultural but whose performances are instead perceived as tokenistic, lacking integrity or authenticity.

To build authenticity in the workplace follow the below:

  • Have organisational values that sit naturally with Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) or are Māori values.

  • Establish policy and operational practices that reflect a Māori ‘voice' and supports cultural capability (Te Reo, tikanga, Treaty of Waitangi).

  • Make sure senior management are openly supportive of Te Ao Māori practices in the workplace.

  • Display Māori iconography.

  • Speak Te Reo Māori and have it heard in the workplace.

  • Provide in-house Te Reo Māori and tikanga programmes to staff.

  • Normalise pōwhiri and whakatau (ceremony of welcome) of manuhiri as workplace practices.

  • Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are practiced.

  • Positions of influential leadership are held by Māori.

Takatū - Preparation for marae visit

  • Waiata - Organise a song, learn the words off by heart and make sure pronunciation is accurate. Ensure all staff participate and give them plenty of practice time to help build confidence.

  • Koha - See the Hāpai o ki muri section. Koha can be handed over or laid down on the marae or the floor of the wharenui (meeting house). Check beforehand what the koha protocols are for the marae you are going to - protocols can vary. Koha is an act of reciprocity. Currency did not exist in the traditional world but the bartering and exchange of resources was common. ‘ Hei huruhuru e rere ai te manu - koha is the feathers that help the bird to fly.

  • Whaikōrero – This is the formal oratory on the marae. It is usually structured to begin with a tauparapara (incantation) then mihi (acknowledgement and greetings) to the atua (gods), mate (those who have passed) and to everyone gathered for the occasion and especially the manuhiri. The speaker then addresses the purpose of the gathering. Whai-i-te-kōrero means to follow the previous speaker’s speech listening for themes, opinions, ideas, quotes or snippets of iwi history. You then add, enhance and embellish what they have said.

  • Te Reo - The marae is the final sanctuary of Te Ao Māori. It is an expectation that Te Reo is the primary language of communication. If you speak practice, practice, practice. Work on pronunciation, content, delivery and the quality of your reo. Speak with mana, represent with mana and uphold the mana of the occasion.

Whakaeke - Going on to the marae

  • Huihuinga ki te keti / waharoa – The gathering of manuhiri at the gates. Make sure koha, speakers, waiata and karanga are sorted/organised. The group is arranged into the women at the front of the group and the men behind and around them ready to walk on. In the traditional world women were the whare tangata (house of humanity). They were cherished and protected. Their role to bear children and mother was vital to the continuity of the iwi (tribe). The formation is in recognition of this.

  • Karanga – Ritual call of welcome performed by the kuia of the marae. This is the start of the pōwhiri process. On hearing her call begin walking onto the marae. The first karanga was from Papatūānuku who in her anguish and sorrow cried out to Ranginui when they were separated. The sorrow is captured in the tone, delivery and pitch of the karanga. It is the call for manuhiri to leave the ordinary world and enter Te Ao Māori.

  • Whakaeke – The movement onto the marae is at a slow and deliberate pace. Manuhiri are quiet, respectful and focused on the ceremony of welcome.

  • Tū ki te maumahara – Pause in your progress onto the marae at a point midway between the waharoa (gates) and the wharenui. Stop and pay silent respect to mate (loved ones who have passed). This is a chance to stop, remember and reconnect spiritually. The karanga feeds our wairua (spirit) by connecting us to atua (the gods) and the tū connects us to ngā tini mate (those more immediate and closer to us who have passed). We are their physical imprint. Wairuatanga is our connection from the spiritual world to the physical.

  • Nohonga manuhiri – Move to your seat on the call of ‘whakatau mai.’ Men sit at the front and women behind them. The reason for this is the same as that explained in the huihuinga section - women are the whare tangata (house of humanity).

  • Tū atu, tū mai – This refers to the order of speaking. It begins with the hosts first then is followed by a guest speaker. It is a one for one process of speaking order. The speaking is always completed by the tangata whenua with the ‘mauri’ returning to the tangata whenua. Check beforehand to find out what the speaking protocol of the marae is whether it is tū atu, tū mai or pāeke.

  • Hariru / hongi / mihi – This is when you shake hands and touch noses together. It is the exchange of hā (breath), ihi (essential force) and tapu. The first hongi was between Tāne Mahuta and Hineahuone ( who was shaped by Tāne ) in the spiritual world. He breathed into her giving her the breath of life. This like every other stage of the pōwhiri is our connection from the spiritual to the physical worlds, the wairua of a pōwhiri..

  • Kai – Once all formalities are completed kai follows. This is for sustenance, to talk and laugh, enjoy each others company, lift the tapu and bring everyone together. It is the final act of opening the marae to the manuhiri where manuhiri can treat the marae as their own. They have become tangata whenua and as such, do not need to be welcomed formally onto the marae again.

The marae is a bastion of Te Ao Māori, the repository of iwi mātauranga (tribal knowledge) and the mana of the people. Visiting a marae is a learning experience that will provide insight to Māori worldviews. It will help to engage and build relationships with whānau, hapū and iwi.

Kia kaha!