The Political Science Program at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMU-K), with the assistance of the University’s Division of International Studies & Programs, is pleased to introduce its Pacific Studies Program 2015 - a collaborative initiative between A&M-Kingsville and the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. The Pacific Studies Program (PSP) is being co-directed by Dr. Nirmal Goswami, Professor of Political Science, TAMU-K and Dr. Elaine Webster, Director, Summer School and Continuing Education, University of Otago. The PSP will include graduate and undergraduate students traveling to and staying in New Zealand in July of 2015, attending classes at the University of Otago, and visiting multiple sites through field trips in the greater Otago region. Areas of focus include history, politics, economics, culture, sustainability and environmental policies, etc., with reference to both the greater Pacific region and New Zealand. You are all invited to cyber travel with us as we learn about the uniqueness of New Zealand and the surrounding region. This blog will document our experience. You are welcome to post comments.

Hoggies NZ Slideshow

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Finding “Extra” in the “Ordinary”

 The “Maoris,” New Zealand’s indigenous population, translates simply to “ordinary” as that is how they described themselves to foreign settlers in the 1800s. Today we had the opportunity to do something the exact opposite, something extraordinary. We experienced something that even many here in New Zealand do not. We visited a marae
Before our marae visit, University of Otago’s (UO) Mark Brunton, a Maori himself, talked to us about: a marae; Maori culture; society; and structures. A lot of this knowledge was pertinent to our marae visit. A marae is an important aspect of each Maori tribe, or iwi. A marae is essentially a complex of buildings that always include the following:

  • A wharenui, the main meeting house
  • A wharekai, the dining hall
  • A wharepaku, showers, toilets, etc.
  • An atea, the area in front of the main meeting house, usually grassy
  • A waha roa, the gate or main entrance to the atea

Maraes can also include a school (kura), a worship house (whare karakia), and a graveyard (urupa). At the presentation we were taught the “welcome ceremonies” or “rituals of encounter” (powhiri) in Maori culture. This last bit was the most crucial for our visit. 
After the lecture we were driven out onto the Otago Peninsula to visit the Otakou marae. Once there we participated in the powhiri. We lined up, women first, as Maori culture dictates and we were all slowly led through the waha roa, up the atea, and into the wharenui. Throughout the walk a mana whenua, or one of our hosts stood right outside the wharenui and would perform a karanga, or a call. Claire Porima, a Maori lady associated with UO, led us in with a karanga of her own. Once inside, a separate host began the whaikorero, or the speech-making portion of the powhiri. This was followed by a waiata, or song, sung by his group. A waikorero was then given by Mark Brunton as a part of our group and then altogether we sang a waiata we had been taught just for this occasion. Gifts were exchanged and then we all participated in the traditional greeting which includes shaking hands and pressing your forehead and nose to those of the person you are greeting, breathing together so that you are united by breathing the same air. This is called hongi and is very different from the less personal and distanced handshake we are familiar with. Last was the kai, or the sharing of food that also denotes the end of the welcome ceremony. The kai is the “final balancing out” of the powhiri and the visitors are now, for their stay, a part of the family. 
While eating we met with and talked to our hosts and then listened to Donna Matahaere-Atariki, a local Maori leader, speak of stories of her specific iwi and discuss current issues relevant to not only her iwi but to all Maori people. The entire experience, introduction to Maori culture, meeting with our Maori hosts, and especially the traditional welcome, was something that really needs to be experienced first-hand. It was a rare experience that we will  remember as one of the most extraordinary ever. 

-- Arianna A.

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