Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Maori tradition - having a Maori welcome or Powhiri - on arriving in NZ!

       A Māori welcome is a pōwhiri (or pōhiri).  A  pōwhiri can happen anywhere that hosts (tangata whenua) wish to formally greet a group of visitors (manuhiri).
        Māori is the language used during pōwhiri. While pōwhiri may vary according to the occasion and the tribal area, Māori language still guides pōwhiri. Basic pōwhiri include the following steps:
  1. Karanga is a unique form of female oratory in which women bring a range of imagery and cultural expression to the first calls of welcome (and response) in the pōwhiri.
  2. Whaikōrero or formal speech making follows the karanga. Some of the best Māori language orations are given during pōwhiri when skilled speakers craft the language into a series of verbal images. The protocols for whaikōrero during pōwhiri are determined by the kawa (practices) of the marae or local iwi if the pōwhiri is not held on a marae.
  3. waiata or song is sung after each whaikōrero by the group the orator represents. It is common to hear traditional waiata during pōwhiri.
  4. Koha – a gift, generally an envelope of money, is laid on the ground by the last speaker for the manuhiri (visitors). A local kuia (female elder) may karanga as an expression of thanks. A male from the tangata whenua will pick up the koha.
  5. Hongi – the pressing of noses signifies the joining together of tangata whenua and manuhiri. Tangata whenua invite the manuhiri to come forward to shake hands (hariru) and hongi.
  6. Hākari – the feast, a meal is then shared. This usually signifies the end of the pōwhiri.
Reference: from koreo.maori.nz

                                      A Maori design
My own powhiri at the office was wonderful and memorable. Maori are deeply spiritual people and use metaphor and symbolism. Their  language is poetically beautiful and almost mesmeric, while their traditions and connection to their ancestors is celestial. My powhiri involved Maori traditions, as above, and then I sang and had made up a little song to the tune of 'Kumbaya my Lord, Kumbaya' - but using IsiZulu words about being Jabula (happy) to be there, and saying Yabonga (thank you) to my Maori and Pakeha (Maori name for European) colleagues for their generous and loving welcome. I wished then so much that I had become fluent in IsiZulu and had a better knowledge of indigenous languages and traditions, when living most of my life in South Africa. 


  1. This sounds like an exhilirating multicultural hug! How divine!

  2. Thanks Colleen.... it's truly exhilarating! Love the cultural mix here in NZ. We have work colleagues from various countries - Kiwi and Maori, Pasifika's from Samoa and other local Pacific islands, Saffers (name for South Africans), Asians from Asia(China, Korea, Philippines etc)and from India, UK, Holland, Germany etc. It's wonderfully rich :)