What to do when visiting a Marae in New Zealand

Unitec MaraeWhen travelling around New Zealand, it is highly likely you will be taken to visit some of the local Marae. These are sacred meeting houses for Maori and are symbols of tribal identity. Considered by Māori as tūrangawaewae – (standing places or places of belonging), they facilitate public discussions and debates, funerals and celebrations and other local gatherings. They are often elaborately carved and designed community spaces equip with a dining hall and cooking area and the marae ātea (sacred space in front of the meeting house).

When visiting a Marae, it is important that you are prepared. Before the visit:

  • Check with someone at the Marae about what will happen and what you will be doing. Research a bit about the Kawa (ceremonial practices) which will give you an understanding of how to participate in the pōwhiri (formal welcome ceremony).
  • Advise the tangata whenua (local people of the Marae) on your time of arrival. This should be during the day and the pōwhiri will be initiated by the tangata whenua issuing a karanga (formal welcoming call).Maori carving
  • Organising a kaikaranga (one or two women who can karanga – respond to the call of welcome) in advance is also a good idea however if this is not possible talk to the tangata whenua and seek their guidance.
  • You should also nominate a speaker (preferably male Māori, unless advised otherwise) to deliver the whaikōrero.
  • Songs or waiata need to be prepared for each speaker.
  • Gather koha – usually a donation of money placed in an envelope to be given to the people of the Marae.
  • If possible arrange for any extra kōrero such as a speaker from the tangata whenua to give a talk about the local history, prior to the visit.
  • Learn about the etiquette of the Marae. Some Marae can provide a list of these guidelines e.g. whether alcohol is permitted, where food and drink can be consumed, any areas that are out of bounds.

Some useful Māori greetings

Kia ora Hi

Tēnā koe Hello (to one person)

Tēnā kōrua Hello (to two people)

Tēnā koutou Hello (to three or more people)

The meaning of the Hongi (touching noses in a Maori greeting)

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