Marae Etiquette

Pōwhiri

The pōwhiri or pōhiri is a process whereby the host people welcome visitors on to the marae. In recent years the pōwhiri process has also been used in other situations, for example, welcoming a new employee to a workplace.

The marae usually consists of a wharenui (meeting house) with marae ātea (courtyard) in front, a wharekai (dining hall) and an ablutions block.

The pōwhiri is made up of a number of parts and can vary from iwi to iwi. One thing is certain – you cannot have a pōwhiri without people.

The pōwhiri will begin with a karanga or call. A kaikaranga (caller) from the tangata whenua will begin to call and then the kaikaranga for the manuhiri will respond. The manuhiri will move onto the marae and the calling will continue.

When the manuhiri are being welcomed onto the marae, the host people will sometimes welcome them with a haka pōwhiri (ritual action chant).

Whaikōrero (speeches) of welcome and greetings are, given by both hosts and visitors on the marae.

At the conclusion of each speech the speaker and a number of supporters will sing a waiata (song). Often these are traditional waiata. By singing waiata, we show our support for what has been said by the speaker.

The koha is a gift given by the manuhiri to the tangata whenua. It is usually placed on the ground by the final manuhiri speaker. Once the speaker is seated, someone from the tangata whenua will pick it up. Cheques are generally the most appropriate form of koha today. Traditionally, you would have taken specialties from your own area as koha to the tangata whenua, whether it was crafts or delicacies such as tītī.

At the conclusion of the formal proceedings the manuhiri will be invited to come and hongi (press noses) and harirū (shake hands) with the tangata whenua. Traditionally both males and females would hongi. After European settlement, the kiss was introduced, and instead of a hongi men and women would kiss other women.

The pōwhiri concludes with kai (food), which lifts the tapu (sacredness) of the pōwhiri.

This information has been sourced from the Ngāi Tūāhuriri: Tuahiwi and Takiwā booklet produced by the Ngāi Tūāhuriri Education Committee, 2014.