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A pōwhiri is a formal ceremonial welcome, where the essential elements are the:
The word pōwhiri encapsulates two concepts that are important to Māori. According to Waitangi kaumatua (elder) Wiremu Williams, of the Ngā Puhi iwi, pō can be translated as a venture into ‘the unknown’ or a new experience, while whiri is derived from whiriwhiri meaning the act or experience of exchanging information and knowledge.
Te reo Māori is the language used during pōwhiri. The customs of a pōwhiri can vary depending on region and iwi. Massey acknowledges the customs of its mana whenua iwi for each campus.
The primal atua (gods) Papatūānuku (the earth mother) and Ranginui (the sky father) and their children are symbolised in the layout of the marae and its significance during pōwhiri (welcomes).
The marae ātea, the space outside the front of the meeting house, is the domain of Tūmatauenga (or Tū), the god of war. Speeches that take place on the marae ātea are allowed to be forceful, representing the nature of Tū.
When pōwhiri happen in a non-marae space, the ātea is created by setting up chairs for the manuhiri and manu whenua across a space or divide. In this situation the laying out of seating is a critical part of the pōwhiri as the middle space represents the ātea.
Traditionally, the pōwhiri process was a way of seeing whether people were friends or enemies. This rationale still plays out today in the way women enter and sit behind the men as a form of protection.
Page authorised by Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori
Last updated on Tuesday 14 August 2018