Our team spent the day out at Kaiapoi, at the Tuahiwi Marae, learning about the history of the Ngāi Tūāhuriri hapū and a bit of tikanga Māori.  As it was being held on a marae, we started off with a pōwhiri, then after morning tea we broke into groups to learn how to put together a basic mihimihi, some history of the hapū and the region, and a bit more detail about the tikanga we’d been introduced to via the pōwhiri.
And given that I’ve almost worn out my ctrl key copying and pasting in all those macrons (one day I really must learn the keyboard shortcuts!), it occurs to me that the non-NZers among you will have only understood about half the words in that paragraph!  So, a bit of translation (with apologies for over-simplification of some concepts):

marae: Meeting area (you sometimes see it interpreted as “meeting house”, but actually the word applies to the whole bit of land, not just the building).  Think community hall crossed with town square.

hapū: Sub-tribe.  Ngāi Tahu is the iwi, or main tribe, covering most of the South Island, and is broken up into a number of smaller hapū.  Ngāi Tūāhuriri is the hapū local to the area just north of Christchurch, and most of Christchurch itself.

tikanga Māori: Protocols and traditions of polite behaviour.

pōwhiri: The formal ceremony welcoming you onto a marae.  Marae are sacred places, so there is a lot of tikanga involved in visiting one – you can’t just walk in. Pōwhiri are also often used in NZ to formally welcome people to other spaces – for example, new staff to the university are usually welcomed with a pōwhiri, as a symbolic way of saying “we consider you one of us now”.

mihimihi: A speech introducing yourself.  It may seem strange, but your name is the least important part of your mihimihi, and is left right until the end.  What’s more important, and comes first, is where you come from (usually expressed in terms of what mountains and rivers you have a connection to) and who your ancestors are.

 Clear as mud?  🙂
It was a great day, anyway.  Learnt loads, and had a bit of fun too.  Plus it was a beautiful day, so it was just nice to be out in the countryside enjoying it!
I was going to write some more about the pōwhiri, for the benefit of the foreigners, but I’ve just noticed the time, and I’ve got to have dinner and get out to my Toastmasters meeting, so that’ll have to wait until another post.

Similar Posts


    1. No photos sorry. It wouldn’t have been appropriate in the pōwhiri itself, and there wasn’t much to take photos of in the rest of the day (the Tuahiwi marae doesn’t have a fancy carved meeting house like you might have seen pictures of – they’re not very common in the South Island, for a variety of historical reasons. Their main meeting house just looks pretty much like any community hall.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.