E Te Marae
Waahi Rangatira Mana
Waahi Rangatira Wairua
Waahi Rangatira Iwi
Waahi Rangatira Tikanga Maaori.
He Aha te Mea Nui?
He Tangata
He Tangata
He Tangata!


The Marae is that chiefly place where the heights of Maaori and their values are expressed. Only in such a special place can the high levels of Wairua, Mana, and Kawa me Tikanga be practiced in their true setting.

The Marae is the place where people may stand tall. Here they are able to stand upon the earth mother and speak under the cover of the sky father.

Here every emotion can be expressed and shared with others, shared not only with the living but also with those generations whom have gone beyond the veil.

A Marae needs people; people need a Marae. People whose families become associated with the caring and sharing contribute to the tradition of the Marae. The Tangata Whenua are the unchanging foundation of a Marae. Yet Tangata Whenua need Manuhiri for whom they can provide.

This is the Marae. It is not just a place where people meet. It is the family home of generations that have gone before. It is the standing place for the generations to come. Maaori who have no Marae have no Turangawaewae. They do not have the right and privilege of standing and speaking. They do not belong.


1. – The Marae:- The full name for the sacred courtyard in front of the meeting house is Te Maraenui Atea Oo Tumatauenga –the larger marae of Tumatauenga, the god of war-. Going on to the Marae means entering an encounter situation, where challenges are met and issues are debated.

All new comers to the Marae must be greeted formally by Tangata Whenua whether in the warmth of a welcome, in the sadness of a Tangi, or even in verbal battle on mutual issues.

It is a place where people formally come together on a specific occasion for a specific function. It has its procedure and this is referred to below, although it may vary from tribe to tribe, Hapu to Hapu.

2. – The Meeting House:- The Marae and the meeting house are complementary and together serve as the focal point for the community sentiment. The meeting house is normally the major central building and, in the main, ornately carved. The meeting house has many names including; Whare Tipuna, Whare Tupuna, and Whare Nui, and in nearly all cases is named after an ancestor and it is structured to represent symbolically the ancestor. Thus the carved figure –tekoteko- on the roof top in front represents the ancestors head, the carved angles from the head down towards the ground –maihi- represents the arms, the ridge pole down the centre of the building –tahuhu or taahu- is seen as the backbone, and the rafters –heke- reaching from the ridge pole to the carved figures around the wall –poupou- represents the ribs. The Poupou are normally carved ancestors representing other tribes or Hapu. Poupou then function as identifiers in a feeling of belonging. The uprights, normally two holding up the Tahuhu, represent connection between the sky father and earth mother. While there are other interpretations it follows appropriately that meeting houses are named after an ancestor.

Thus, on entering the house it can be seen as entering into the bosom of the ancestor.

It follows also that the interaction between people on Te Maraenui Atea Oo Tumatauenga can and should be significantly different from that type of interaction which is normally encouraged inside the house. It is believed that inside the house the god of peace Rongomaiwaho reins and it is in this atmosphere and under this belief that people are required to interact with one another.

3. – The Whare Kai:- As the name implies, this is the eating house, the place where the ‘inner being’ is satisfied. The Whare Kai is a separate building, not necessarily as a physical reality but in some cases as a concept or belief. The concept of Tapu prescribes where food is eaten and where it cannot be eaten and also where drinks can and cannot be drunk.

To Maaori, food is a common element –noa- and the opposite of Tapu. Whereas the Whare Tipuna is Tapu and food cannot therefore be eaten there, the Whare Kai is free from Tapu; the two are at opposite ends of a continuum.

4. – Other buildings and structures:- Many Marae have churches situated nearby. This is significant in terms of the acknowledgement of god as an ever present dimension in the daily lives of people on the Marae. Many Marae also have an Urupa nearby acknowledging the ancestors as a living dimension of life. An ancestor is commemorated within a building; respects are paid to those who have passed on to the Hono i Wairua within a Whaikoorero reflecting the belief in the merging of life and death that is significant and meaningful for Maaori. People living -te hunga ora- are the result of a combination of the dead –te hunga mate- and the living. References to these concepts are very frequent in Whaikoorero.

On some Marae memorials to a significant ancestor or people whom died in the 1st and 2nd World Wars are found to the side of the Marae or Whare Nui, and in some cases a flag pole stands majestically at the side of the meeting house. Last but not least, the ablution block and toilets are placed significantly to the rear of the Whare Nui and the Whare Kai.


Generally there are two major groups of people on the Marae:

A:- Tangata Whenua:- The local people who by genealogy and nowadays by association have Turangawaewae –situational identity- to the Marae.

Their Turangawaewae gives them the right to determine the Kawa on the Marae, to determine functions, to determine roles on the Marae, and to enjoy giving hospitality to others. It also prescribes their responsibilities to others. They have the basic task of preparing for visitors, ensuring that they are well fed and looked after and generally doing all they can to make the Hui a success. They contribute to the food supplies, provide the work force for the kitchen, dinning room, meeting house and grounds, and welcoming visitors. It is the Tangata Whenua who removes the Tapu from the visitors to allow them to become one with the Tangata Whenua.

The Tangata Whenua can be subdivided into sub groups on the basis of their prescribed roles although it is true that roles can overlap.

Young Children:- They have free reign over the Marae. They can play anywhere on the Marae but when a formal welcome is in progress on the Marae it becomes out of bounds. It is normal for children to be seen and hopefully not heard but it does not always work out like that. They are valued members on the Marae as indeed everyone is. Children belong to the Marae and are important. All adults are parents to these children and it is the responsibility of the closest adults to care for them.

The teenager:- Again they have free reign on the Marae and learn by experience. However they are expected to do general work to ensure that visitors are looked after. In many ways life on the Marae can be viewed as a process of roles, beginning as a small child who has freedom all over the Marae and then a general apprenticeship starting at the back until finally when old, to the front of the Marae as a respected elder.
The Adults:- The adults are the workers in the Whare Kai. The food has to be ordered and delivered, the fires have to be kept, the meals have to be prepared, cooked and served, the Hangi has to be built, set down and cooked, the houses, utensils and furniture have to be maintained and the ablution block kept clean.

The elders:- Ngaa Koroua me Ngaa Kuia. It is very difficult to know when an elder is an elder in comparison with an adult. It varies from Marae to Marae, some are exponents of Maoritanga, and others are exponents of the Whaikoorero. In some districts where there are very few old folk, the younger group of men and woman assume the role of the elders. In other areas where the numbers of elders are greater the old leaders are very old and the younger ones have to wait in the ‘wings’ during a formal welcome whereas on other Marae they could be leading the welcome. The Mana of the elders is expansive. They are revered by the not so old because of their wisdom through experience, their wise counsel, their expertise in Ngaa Taonga oo Ngaa Tupuna Maaori, and their guidance in all things pertaining to the Marae and to life in general.
Their role as implied in the above paragraph is to ‘front’ the Marae, welcome the visitors, ensure that the Kawa is strictly adhered to and generally or specifically pass on their knowledge to the young.

B:- The Manuhiri:- Visitors comprise the second main division in the Marae encounter situation. As visitors they take their lead from the established Kawa of the Tangata Whenua to avoid offending and to show reciprocally the respect that people have for one another.

Recognizing the reciprocal nature of the Marae encounter and the costs such encounters incur, the Manuhiri make their contribution not respecting local patterns of behavior but also in the form of a Koha.

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