About the Powhiri

The conference opening is in the form of a Powhiri, in which the manuhiri (visitors) are formally welcomed to this place by the people of the land – the tangata whenua. This ritual expresses the encounter of two groups, and the formation of a new group as the two become one.

Karanga – Call

The karanga is the first voice to be heard in this ceremony.  Just before the appointed time, the manuhiri gather at the entrance way, women in the front and men behind.  The manuhiri wait silently for the karanga (welcome call) by the tangata whenua.  The karanga is a very sacred part of the ceremony.  This wailing call ignites and enlarges the mauri or life force energy of the occasion. It also indicates that the hosts are ready to receive the manuhiri.  The manuhiri respond with their own karanga, and proceed slowly towards the place where the tangata whenua are gathered.  The karanga alternates between the manuhiri, moving slowly forwards, and the tangata whenua who await them, standing.

The karanga consists of

  • Acknowledgement of the manuhiri / tangata whenua
  • Acknowledgement of the Ancestors and all those who have passed on to other worlds
  • Acknowledgement of the kaupapa – the reason for the occasion and the gathering of people.

When the manuhiri reach the designated seating area, the tangata whenua give a signal to be seated.

On most marae, but not all, women to not speak formally.  This role is reserved for kaumatua (elders) or a male person designated for the task.  The speakers sit in the front seats, with the women sitting behind.

Whaikorero – Speeches

The whaikorero (speeches) take place immediately everyone is seated.  The kawa (marae protocol) of the hosts determines the format of the speeches.  Here, under the kawa of the Kai Tahu people, the tangata whenua begin the speeches, and continue until all their speakers have spoken.  The speakers for the manuhiri then reply.  As each speaker finishes, a waiata tawhito (traditional song) is sung. This is known as a kinaki or relish for the speech.

Hongi – Sharing of breath

At the end of the whaikorero, the tangata whenua and manuhiri come together with the ritual of the pressing of noses. This is called the hongi – the bringing of all senses into close contact, the weaving together of the different life forces and the coming together of everyone as one.  Under the kawa of Kai Tahu it is the kai karanga, the women who are designated to do the calling, who lead the way for this part of the ritual.

After this formal part of the ceremony, the tapu (sacred) element that keeps us apart has been lifted.  The joining of the manuhiri with the tangata whenua is finally completed by the sharing of a meal together.

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