So you’ve never been to a pōwhiri before? Or perhaps you’ve been to one before, but not for a while, or not outside of a marae, or not away from home.
Haneta Pierce, who is the manager of Māori Services at Christchurch City Libraries and heads the Bicultural portfolio for LIANZA 2009 Conference, has helpfully put together an explanation of what a pōwhiri is, what you can expect and where to meet.
Why have a pōwhiri? The primary purpose of the pōwhiri is to bring together two groups of people – the hosts (mana whenua) and the visitors (manuhiri). This is a step-by-step process, observing Māori tikanga, that allows the two groups to become sufficiently comfortable with one another, so that they can then mingle with each another and together undertake the business of the meeting, which, in this case, is the annual LIANZA Conference.
Where is it being held? The pōwhiri for this year’s conference will take place in Victoria Square, which is a very short stroll to the conference venue.
What to wear? Tidy dress, just as you would wear to work, or to a conference. There is no specific requirement for skirts for women. It may be cool, or it may be hot, so we suggest you dress in layers to adapt to the weather conditions.
When and where to gather. The pōwhiri is scheduled to begin at 8.30am, on Monday 12th October, so please start to gather near the bridge in Victoria Square from 8.15am. There will be folks around to guide you about where to stand before the pōwhiri begins, and where to move after the wero (formal challenge) and karanga (ceremonial call) have happened. The seating on the manuhiri side is intended for pōwhiri speakers and overseas guests.
Information for the day. As mentioned above, there will be folks on hand to guide you. You will also receive a pōwhiri booklet when you register to explain the process (so if you can register before 8.15am, that would be useful!). Mana whenua will speak first, then the manuhiri will reply. There will be various waiata (songs), including the LIANZA waiata, Ko nga kete wananga e rapuhia e Tane. To familarise yourself with this waiata, have a listen to the tune and learn the words here.
After the formal proceedings. Once the harirū (pressing of noses) between the mana whenua and seated guests is completed, we will enter the Town Hall and make our way to the air bridge upstairs to cross to the Convention Centre for morning tea.
What if it rains? In the event that the weather on the morning of Monday 12th October isn’t favourable, a decision will be made to engage our “change of venue” plans by 7.30am. The process remains the same, but the venue changes to the main hall of the Convention Centre. There’ll be folks on hand to make sure you know where to go.
Some of the challenges to holding the pōwhiri in Victoria Square. In holding the pōwhiri outside of a marae setting, there are some challenges posed as it acquires an additional purpose, that of making a symbolic statement about the identity of the local, regional or national community and the part Māori have within that, as well as an introduction between two groups. It also acquires a different audience, one whose members in most cases do not understand or speak te Reo Māori. This can present the presiding kaumātua (elders) with a dilemma, as speaking in only te Reo Māori may mean that many of those present do not understand the speeches, miss out on the information contained therein, and, instead of enjoying, endure the ceremony. However, through discussions with Te Rōpū Whakahau and tangata whenua representatives, in this case Ngāi Tahu, and structure and guidance from the LIANZA Conference Handbook, we’ve worked together to ensure that the pōwhiri achieves the goal of bringing the two groups together, observing tikanga and welcoming our overseas manuhiri appropriately.