The Marae is the turanga-waewae of the Māori. It is the basis
of traditional Māori community life. It is their home. In
the Marae official functions take place in : celebrations, weddings,
christenings, tribal reunions, funerals.
People may be called to a "hui" on the Marae. The literal meaning
of "hui" is to congregate, to gather together. As opposed to other
meetings, "hui" are usually run according to Māori protocol.
If the "hui" concerns a dispute between two parties, both sides
present their argument, and an agreement is reached at the end
according to consensus. Otherwise, a further "hui" is called for.
The tangata whenua are the local Marae people. The tangata whenua
people make the decisions concerning the Marae, and if guests
are expected, for example, the tangata whenua take care of the
organisation. The tangata whenua define the roles on the marae,
and ensure hospitality is extended to visitors.
Young people are expected to help in the work on the Marae.
The older people of the Marae have authority, and are respected.
The Kaumatua (older people) are the Marae elders. Their role is
to teach the young people Māori traditions such as "whaikorero"
(speeches), "whakapapa" (genealogy" or "waiata" (song). The Kaumatua
also take part in welcoming visitors.
Waiata (song) is very important in Māori life. Over the
centuries, waiata recounts history, legends, and specific events
in the life of the person. A speaker may break into song at
a given point during his speech. Certain waiata should only
be sung on certain occasions, however, such as for a "tangi" (funeral).
A European, or "Pakeha", may only
enter the Marae on permission from the Elders, and due respect
must be shown while in the Marae complex. If a visiting party
visits the Marae, a special ceremony takes place first. This ceremony
is called the "te wero", and is always carried out by a male member.
Wero means "cast a spear". The "wero" is always issued by a male.
After the haka, a male from the Marae places an item of challenge
on the ground. The visiting party must wait at the gate of the
Marae until the occasion presents itself for them to show that
they come with peaceful intentions.
A "wero" may be issued to a high-ranking woman, such as a Queen,
but the "taki" (challenge dart) must be picked up by a male member
of her party. This is the traditional way of determining whether
visitors to a Marae came in peace or with hostile intentions.
When the visitors, "manuhiri", advance into the Marae, they remain
close together and advance at a slow respectful pace. The women
of the Marae take part in the call of welcome, the Te karanga
: "Come forward, visitors from afar, Welcome, welcome!" (Haere
mai, Haere mai). Bring with you the spirits of your dead, that
they may be greeted , that they may be mourned. Ascend onto our
Marae, ascend the sacred Marae of our people. Welcome, Welcome.
(Haere mai, Haere mai)" For the Māori, generosity and hospitality
are all important.
Usually visitors to the Marae will stop for a minute or two,
in order to remember those who have died, before continuing into
the Marae itself. Once the visitors are inside the Marae, greetings
and speeches take place. The speaker moves backwards and forwards
as he speaks. Mostly, speeches are followed by waiata (songs)
by the women.
A traditional welcome practiced by the Māori is called a
"powhiri", consisting of a "hongi". This is the gentle
pressing together of the nose and forehead. The "hongi" is the
mingling of breath between the two people, representing unity.
Often this is performed three times : the first pressing is a
greeting to the person, the second acknowledges ancestors, and
a third pressing of nose and forehead honours life in this world.