Day 229 on the Road
Immersing in the Maori culture at Onuku Marae
Today we are visiting the Onuku Marae near Akaroa. If you liked this video and want to see more 365 Days: 365 Activities in New Zealand then head on over to our epic YouTube Channel!
So today we are immersing ourselves into the Maori culture at the Onuku Marae.
This morning we are meeting Riki and Mel his wife who is the historical orater of the Onuku marae. We are meeting them because we want to learn more about how Maori meet modern life while keeping alive the ancient traditions.
So basically these hang on here and we get two eels per hook. This is where we dry all the eels so we obviously wash them in the sea water cos they dry quicker. Hang them up here right through all these hooks that’s what they’re all here for. Hang them up for a couple of hours and then we smoke them.
The first stop on our tour is the whata which is the cooking shelter it’s also known as the kouta which is the male’s kitchen.
There they’re gonna tell us more about the ancient ways of fishing and preparing food which is quite fascinating but as per every conversation it quickly turns into politics and this is a great opportunity for us to learn how the Maori politics happen how are decisions made, and how are voices of every individual heard.
So every family unit has someone who represents them. So you guys don’t have one for five you have one for you one for Little River one for Port Jackson.
Yes, that’s right. And we have a table we have the trump table where we make decisions.
I hope that Laura got all of that so she can write about it.
And Rakaihautu which is R-a-kai-h-a-u-tu.
After checking out the whata, Mel is taking us to the Onuku Church which has to be the cutest little church I’ve ever seen. It’s meant to fit about 30 people in it but I struggle to see how that many people fit in that tiny building.
But what makes this church look so good is the fact that it is beautifully ornated with these intricate maori carvings as we approach the church Mel tells us more about what the carving means.
The top there you have Tiko Tiko who is the head and down the side here that’s the maihe which are the arms they are welcoming you.
the church was once the centre of the community. Onuku was actually a thriving village back in the days and this was the place where all the pakea which is the Maori word for white people and the Maori used to meet every Sunday for the mass.
The church is probably one of the cutest buildings we have been in New Zealand. As we are stepping in it only gets cuter everything is beautifully made with stunning wood panels, a lot of Maori carvings as well, which is really cool and on top of that the acoustics in here is really awesome.
And once we step outside we are moving onto the Urupa which is a non-dominical graveyard which mel tells us more about.
So this is not particularly Maori this is the tatamamoi and their tradition is that you don’t normally return to the grave site. We never had that tradition. That didn’t come from an indigenous culture. But you didn’t need any headstones to show them because in belief is that they will always be there with you.
Next we’re moving onto probably the most prominent feature of the Onuku Marae which is the ancestral house, otherwise known as the Whare Tipuna. Although we can’t go inside the whare today because it’s in use by a kapa haka group otherwise known as a basically song and dance group, Mel is telling us more about the rituals before entering a meeting house known as a powhiri which is a traditional welcome ceremony.
She also explains that whares like this one are usually named after their tribe’s chief.
So when the chief would change would you change the name or will you keep it?
Usually keep it. Back in his time. However, the only reason that we would change is to become more European like often we would have two names duel names one that was English and one that was Maori.
One of the other rituals that people must go through when first entering this marae is to learn about the history of the area and that’s a particular rule made for the Onuku marae, a rule otherwise known as kawa. Usually this takes about three nights of hardcore studying of the history and whakapapa which is word for genealogy but for us, mel is just giving us a brief but compelling history of the area which we can learn just today.
As she explained before a lot of the stories can be found within the carvings of the whare itself. the reason why some of the carvings are missing from the marae is to represent a time when the chief was actually abducted by a rivaling tribe for a short period.
Because Robin and I are super fascinated by Maori carvings, Mel takes us to a local craftsman and tattoo artist who has some amazing works of art on display. And it gives us more context to the non-written form of language of the Maori culture. It’s an art form that we see all around New Zealand.
So today we’re driving to Onuku, which is a very small town or not even a township a settlement near the town of Akaroa.
I think if you just pop this the other way round, if you just flip it 180 it would probably look normal.