Marae are Maori community facilities that usually consist of a carved meeting house, a dining hall and cooking area and the marae atea (sacred space in front of the meeting house).
Marae are symbols of tribal identity. They are meeting places where people can discuss and debate issues. Marae are considered by Maori as turangawaewae - standing places, places of belonging.
If you are arranging a visit to a marae, preparation is important. Before the visit:
- It is useful to find out about what will happen and what you will be doing. Knowing the kawa (ceremonial practices) of the marae will help you to understand and participate in the powhiri (formal welcome ceremony). Speak to someone at the marae about this.
- Plan your time of arrival with the tangata whenua (local people of the marae). In most tribal areas you should plan to arrive during daylight. The tangata whenua initiate the powhiri by issuing a karanga (formal welcoming call). There may be a period of waiting before the karanga is issued.
- It is best to organise a kaikaranga (one or two women who can karanga – respond to the call of welcome) in advance of the visit. If a kaikaranga is not available, advise the tangata whenua and seek their guidance.
- Nominate Maori speaker/s (male, unless advised otherwise) to deliver the whaikorero. Speaker should be good speakers of Maori and be able to speak on behalf of the group reasonably well.
- Prepare waiata (songs) to support your speakers. You will need one song for each speaker.
- Gather koha - usually a donation of money placed in an envelope to be given to the people of the marae.
- Organise any extra korero such as a speaker from the tangata whenua to talk about the local history or the marae. Where possibel arrange this before your visit.
- Learn about the etiquette of the marae. Some marae can provide a list of these guidelines e.g. whether alcohol is permitted, where food and drink can be consumed, any areas that are out of bounds.
Visiting a marae is a unique experience. Be prepared and you will enjoy the experience immensely.
Share your marae visit experience, read about associated protocols:
- Greetings: How you say hello and introduce yourself
- Powhiri: The formal welcoming ceremony
- Karanga: The call inviting strangers to enter the marae or meeting place
- Whaikorero: The art of Maori oratory
- Mihimihi: A less formal introduction given by individuals
- Tangi: Maori funeral protocol and customs