For todays modern Maori, the choice to learn and embrace their maoritanga isnt a process that happens overnight. More often than not, there is a catalyst, a starter, someone or something that leads you to ask questions. Something that makes you ask yourself what it is to be Maori.

I can think of many people asking these questions, but where to go for answers? For an Australian-born maori (or mozzie) such as myself, the massiveness of these questions, and Te Ao Maori in general (The Maori World) can seem like a dark hole of unknown mystery. How to begin? Who to speak to? What will be expected of me?

While I would never dictate how a person should live their life, what I can share is how I am personally approaching it. From a self-proclaimed mozzie point of view. Detailing the highs and lows, the places I visit, and the people along the way. From someone that generally had a pakeha upbringing, its a complete shift in how you view the world.

Who am I to be writing this you may ask. Why keep reading? What is it about my opinions that merit your consideration? Well, Im a little political, and a little crazy. I have a lot to learn and my opinions are just that – opinions. They are not gospel, they are not law. I dont aim to discredit anyone, but more to share my experiences with those who are interested. If one person reads this and decides to look into maoritanga for themselves, ill be happy.

Check out my facebook page missmaorigal for more updates and information.

I should state from the start that at present I am semi-fluent in te reo so apologies in advance for any and all types of errors I may write. Obviously I will make all efforts to avoid any possible mistakes in the first place though. Not only with the language, but everything I write overall.

My mother is Ngati Hari from Taumarunui, and my father is Ngapuhi from Nukutawhiti.

This is my journey of discovery to find out what that means to me, Missmaorigal.

Welcome to the new (and hopefully improved) format of Missmaorigal.

10299567_10152158935673722_6809860299639213845_nAs I write this im getting ready to head to another noho for the weekend so apologies if it seems rushed or rambling or boringjust covering all my bases there J The truth of it is there is so much more than I could ever hope to write so if you are wanting to learn more, dont be scared to make that first step. And before I go off on my own ranting spree about this, that, and the other I wanted to share a bit of what ive learnt in regards to tikanga. Specifically rituals of welcome, and farewell Powhiri and Poroporoaki. The many different aspects of a powhiri are intricate and varied. In much the same way the language dialect can change region to region, so too can the kawa of powhiri and poroporoaki change from marae to marae.

There are several different aspects to a powhiri, the taki/wero or challenge, the karanga/wairea, speeches/whaikorero, a haka powhiri may even be performed for dignatories or people of status. Depending on where you are a koha may be given in public as part of the powhiri, or simply handed over at a later time with no big fuss being made so as not to offend anyone who may have been unable to contribute.

The reciting of karakia/prayers, is almost guaranteed and of course a kai hakari/feast will be expected. Although in a lot of cases this will be saved for the final day of the hui/tangi/occasion and before that people will have anything from a cup of tea and biscuits to a standard meal. The arrival time of manuhiri, number of people there as a whole, and type of occasion are all factors. To understand the context of a powhiri though, there are two other concepts you must understand.

1) waewae tapu if you are visiting a marae for the first time, you are considered waewae tapu sacred footsteps. You yourself are tapu as a first-time visitor. The powhiri is the way of removing that tapu so that you are no longer a visitor, but afterwards you are tangata whenua. We all know that one person who considers themselves part of the furniture in your house? And you wouldnt have it any other way? THAT is tangata whenua in a way. That particular person is welcome to make themselves a coffee in your kitchen, but you wouldnt expect them to cook a three-course meal for themselves right? In much the same way, when you enter a marae as manuhiri/visitors, whether waewae tapu or not, and go through the process of powhiri making yourself tangata whenua, you are still expected to adhere to basic courtesys.

2) local kawa As mentioned, the kawa can change from marae to marae. Some differences are small and should you accidentally do the wrong thing, it wont cause a fuss. For example hongi/hariru before or after mihi? Other differences are more major and not following them can be cause for anger or even insult. Ngati Porou and Ngati Hine for example are two of the few iwi ive been told who allow women to stand and whaikorero. The important thing is that you do not go onto a marae and place your kawa on top of theirs. If a Ngati Porou woman wants to stand and whaikorero outside of Ngati Porou, she should be prepared for a certain amount of backlash. Its like going into someone elses house and telling them to rearrange their furniture. Kind of rude and will no doubt cause a fuss. Personally, if im going onto a marae for the first time and I dont know the kawa, im likely to follow the person/people who have been there before and do know. Which is also where common sense and manaakitanga come in. If im leading a group of people onto a marae, first time or not, I will make it my business to know the kawa beforehand, and I would hope that the tangata whenua are fortunate enough to have people who can pick up on this and guide us as manuhiri accordingly.

At a recent noho, we did some run through of mock powhiri. For me it was really nerve wracking actually because I had to karanga. It also opened my eyes because when you are blindly following the person in front of you, its easy to miss the point of why. Knowing appropriate waiata tautoko/song of support for men doing the mihi. Breaking down the three stages of karanga. Order of speeches. With so many aspects, is it any wonder people get confused and things get mixed up? I could continue explaining more on powhiri but if I did that I wouldnt cover anything else so I will move on to Poroporoaki.

Poroporoaki is a ritual of farewell which some would associate with the final night of a tangi before the body is buried, which is fine. Something I didnt realise though was that a poroporoaki is basically the winding down process. For example, if a three-day hui is finishing up, the marae has been cleaned, and everyone is ready to go. They would probably gather in the whare one last time just to go over a few things, say their thank yous etc. Each speaker may or may not be followed by a waiata tautoko (depending on occasion and those present), but it is very likely that a karakia will close the poroporoaki at the very end. Less formal and drawn out than a powhiri, the poroporoaki is the opportunity to thank the helpers, those hosts, as well wish safe travels to those who are leaving. Light hearted and entertaining at times also, this is when you will hear stories of mischief accompanied by funny dances/songs. In regards to tangi, some marae will pass around a tokotoko stick late into the night speaking about the deceased. Even going all night! Telling stories and singing songs. If manuhiri have a long way to travel, they may not stay for the actual poroporoaki, instead opting to stand during the kai hakari to say their own thank yous so they can leave immediately after. Again, location and occasion dictate alot.

The sad thing is that because of the state of maori tikanga these days, so many Maori dont know the kawa of their own marae. Im one of them. Maybe its been lost or watered down, or changed from habit. How much of what you do each day is based on learned habit? And how much is based on because of what is right?

Two weeks ago I was at a noho and there was no one to meet us at all because the kaumatua/kuia were called away to another marae. One of the worst effects of the urban drift/colonisation was that as the people left their various marae and headed for the cities the elders left behind had no one to pass down their knowledge to. Sometimes one child from each generation would be chosen to learn the kawa, and in time pass it on, but with the urban drift this method didnt work the same way it used to. Simply put there was no one to teach!

So when the elders passed, so much of the knowledge went with them. And now the few remaining are forced to spread themselves out over several different areas which is how you get people arriving but no one to manaaki them. Its a sad fact that most marae throughout aotearoa are in dire need of their people to return home. If they dont, this is what happens. This particular marae wouldnt be the first to be in that situation and definitely not the last either. While not having anyone there didnt bother me personally as such, I did feel sad because it showed how much that marae needs its people. The thought that it could have very easily have been my own fathers marae, (also a northland marae) meant it hit me even harder. The stark contrast between this and my mothers marae in the King Country was blatantly obvious. There are many differences between the two, one of the biggest being that my mothers side has a lot of whanau support and is a lot more functional when you compare the two. Every marae needs help but its when these differences are all the more obvious that it starts to hurt.

At this same noho, one of my class members stood (it was her marae) and picture by picture, generation by generation, she pointed out the effect of the urban drift and colonisation to that marae. Starting at the battle of Ohaeawai and her toa descendants who fought in it, she went down the line pointing out warriors, tohunga, people who moved away, as well as people who were chosen by elders to move back and learn the old ways. Its a very haunting realisation when you can put faces to something that impacted so majorly on the maori people. And all this happened during the poroporoaki!

Our ancestors were truly on a higher frequency of learning. They worked with their environment, they believed in the atua, and things like mana and tapu were very much more obvious and apparent on a daily basis. Imagine if we had that power today! And we used it in a positive way! Id like to think the future is not completely lost yet.

The noho I was at last weekend was a whanau one, we learnt a bit of history, the origin of our flag that we fly and how it relates to the kingitanga. As well as a patere that ties all that korero together. We used rakau and also added a couple more songs to my kete of waiata.

Which brings me to my next point, as each speaker will stand and mihi, more often than not, they will be followed by a waiata tautoko or song of support. Choosing an appropriate song makes sense but to do that you should consider who it is you are supporting is it someone experienced and mature in whaikorero? Is it a powhiri? Poroporoaki? Or during the kai hakari?

A patere or some other type of meaningful chant could be better suited to an older experienced speaker during powhiri/poroporoaki. Although during the kai hakari something upbeat and fun would be better. If your speaker is younger or maybe less experienced, a more commonly known waiata might be better. If you are manuhiri, something saying thank you to your hosts is appropriate. If you are tangata whenua something along the lines of safe travels on the other hand. I know it seems like so much to take in and overwhelming, but when you think about it, a lot of it is common sense. As I said, at times when im not sure, I will usually follow the person/people who know what theyre doing.

So that was a (supposed to be a quick) rundown on a few of the things ive learnt so far. Fittingly though, with all this talk of powhiri the recent debate about allowing women to speak during powhiri in parliament has to be mentioned. One reasoning is that if you are going to change the kawa and allow women to speak, better to get rid of the lot altogether and not have powhiri at all in my opinion.

If Ngati Porou or Ngati Hine, or any other women has the privelage of speaking on her own marae then thats perfectly fine and up to them.

But to change the kawa of parliament because two pakeha MPs dont fully understand the concepts behind powhiri well thats equal to a form of modern colonisation in my view. The majority of females dont stand and whaikorero because their place is to karanga and to support the men in various other ways. The mens place is to whaikorero because the males place is one of service. Service to his marae, his iwi, his hapu, his whanau, and standing to whaikorero as a representative is part of that. When hine titama fled to the underworld and became hine nui te po, she told tane mau e mihi, maku e karanga. You mihi, and I will karanga meaning tane was to stay and mihi/greet/serve their children (mankind) and she will call them to her when it is their time. As hine nui te po, the goddess of death, that is part of her role and today the kai karanga (women doing the karanga) is a representation of hine nui te po.

If you have been keeping up with my Missmaorigal page, you will note that I have been putting up a lot of statuses in te reo maori. After Matariki was Maori language week and I used that as an opportunity to get into the reo as much as I can. What ive noticed is while I can put sentances together, its the construction and grammar that I need to work on. Im loving the fact that the theme is 50 kupu in 50 weeks because it turns maori language week into maori language year! (minus two weeks of course)

Unfortunately though, because ive been having internet problems recently, I havent been able to keep the page updated as much as I would like but I will be fixing that as soon as possible as well as bringing out some merchandise so if you havent already, check it out.

Dont be shy to contact me through the page and spread the word.

In future articles I will be looking at tangihanga, more whakapapa, more tikanga, and more reo. Im also wanting to look at some maori myths and legends so will be incorporating some of that as well in future. So until next time, thanks for reading.

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