Kia ora whanau!
When I visited Wellington recently for my Fulbright New Zealand orientation, I had the unique opportunity to stay overnight at the Waiwhetū Marae. Before our group of visiting American graduate fellows and visiting scholars left for the marae, we learned the proper pōwhiri, or rituals of encounter. We practiced the hongi, which is the act of gently pressing noses and foreheads to establish physical contact. We also learned two Māori waiata (songs), to acknowledge the group welcoming us onto their marae. In learning the stages of pōwhiri and the rules and customs of the marae, I think some of us were a bit nervous; the strict cultural protocols made us apprehensive that we would make a mistake and offend our hosts.
Upon arriving at the marae, we waited outside until a senior female called us inside with the karanga. We entered into the wharenui and shared the hongi that we had practiced, which rather than being intimidating was actually a very enjoyable and familial process. Much like kissing on the cheeks or other physical introductions that we don’t really practice in America, the intimate “sharing of the breath” instantly made me feel welcome into the marae and the community. Our groups exchanged whaikōrero, or speeches delivered by a senior male (or in our case, a visiting student from Hawaii who grasped Māori pronunciation easily). The final stage of the pōwhiri is the sharing of kai (food), after which our hosts warmly welcomed us as members of the whanau (extended family). Our apprehensions disappeared as we talked and laughed with our hosting family.
Terry and Patsy Puketapu, our hosts, truly embraced us and made an effort to get to know each of us during our time at the marae. Patsy took the time to speak with me to learn about my project, and kindly offered to arrange for me to go see the morning radio show on Atiawa Toa FM, the iwi radio station that was part of Te Runanganui o Taranaki Whanui. While I thought I was just going to observe the DJ, Paora, in action, when I arrived he set me up at the guest microphone! I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous for my first on-air appearance, but Paora made me feel at home and I was excited to online casino talk to him and be a part of “Wellington’s Soul Breakfast”.
After weather and traffic updates, Paora introduced me as his guest. We had a laugh about my last name, which is pronounced “bro”, a common greeting here in New Zealand. He joked that it sounded like a fake New Zealand DJ name, and perhaps I could be his new co-host. Paora then took a genuine interest in why I was attracted to doing a project on Māori popular music. He asked me to compare the Māori popular music scene to the scene back in the States, and I explained that I felt that the artists were very approachable and had a true love for the music and the community.
When Paora would put on a song, he would chat with me about artists he recommends I check out, and about his own interests in contemporary Māori music. He had a wealth of knowledge on the subject. He gave me his details and told me to keep in touch throughout my project. I couldn’t believe my luck at coming across such a welcoming and interesting gate-keeper to the Māori music community. I’m really excited to meet up with Paora again when I can make it back down to Wellington.
Check out Atiawa Toa FM, you can listen live here. While some music is from familiar American artists, there are some great Māori artists on there as well. Enjoy!
Thanks to Andy Mitchell at Fulbright New Zealand for the pictures!