Visiting a marae
Marae Tikanga - Protocol
Visiting a marae is really cool, and if you're lucky enough one day you might get to see one. A marae is a very special place where you can experience Maori art and culture.
If you do get the chance to visit a marae there are a few things that you should know first, especially about what a marae is and what you should do once you get there. These guidelines are known as marae tikanga (things that are right to do).
What does marae mean?
The word marae actually means more than just the meeting house (or wharenui) it-self. Years ago marae meant the whole of the area in front of the wharenui. This area was where special ceremonies were performed and it was known as the marae-atea. Nowadays when people say marae they generally mean any part of the wharenui, the marae-atea, as well as any other buildings and grounds associated with it.
Who owns a marae?
Unlike most peoples' homes a marae doesn't actually belong to any one person. It belongs to everyone who is a member of a particular iwi or tribe. Usually an iwi has different branches to its tribe and these are known as hapu, or sub-tribe. Every member has the right to say the marae belongs in some way to them. Pretty cool don't you think?
Is each marae the same?
No, every marae has its own particular laws and rules that tell the people on it how they are expected to act, not only themselves, but as well as around others. These laws and rules will also say how people should treat the environment.
How many marae are there in New Zealand?
There are loads of marae in Aotearoa New Zealand - several hundred in fact. Wow! Some new marae were built by the government about fifty years ago because many Maori had begun to shift from the country and into the cities. The government realised these people still needed a special place so they could continue their ceremonies and social gatherings, and so these new marae were built. Some of these marae are a little different to the older ones because they belong to several iwi and hapu rather than just one.
so you're off to the marae - what should you do once you're there?
It's dinner time - so what should you do now?
Why do Maori have these rules?
Because for them it is really important that there are particular times and places for everything, so these rules help separate what is sacred or special from things that are everyday or commonplace.