Maori Performance: Marae Liminal Space and Transformation

Article excerpt

Te kura o te waka nei e

Papatüänuku kai a koe te häkui nui

Takoto i te tauawhi o tö tau

Kä ihi, kä wehi, kä wana o te whenua

Hinepukourangi te korowai

I käkahutia te rehu tai

Mihi mai rä, mihi mai rä, mihi mai rä

Ma mätou e okioki nei

Kä tiritiri o te moana e mähora nei

Kä mauka tipua, kä mauka teitei

Kä awa i rere atu ki tai,

Mau ana te wairua nei e

Tü mai rä, tu mai rä, tu mai rä

He maioha tênei i kä uri i tae mai

I Hawaiki mai Tawhiti

I Tawhiti nui, i Tawhiti roa

I Tawhiti pamamao

I Itaitewhenua

Te maraenui a Tänemahuta

E kawe mai mätou, te mauri

O ö mätou whakapapa ki a koutou

Kä atua, kä tipuna

Kä iwi kätoa kua haere i te pö

Kia ora Hinemoana mö tö atawhai

0 te waka tapu nei

1 Te Moananui a Kiwa

Hineatea mö tö ähurumöwai e

Tenä rä koutou, tenä rä koutou, tenä rä

koutou

Ka haere mai mätou

Ka tü ki uta ki tai

E tu tonu e

Kia kä te ahi o Mahuika

Kia tau, kia whakatau,

Kia tau katoa

Precious vessel

Earth Mother you are the greatest mother

Rest in the embrace of your lover

Force, awe and inspiration of the land

The Mist Maiden is the cloak

That clothes the sea

Greetings

By us, rest

The Southern Alps which are spread out

Supernatural mountains, tall mountains

Rivers flow to the coast

Carrying the spirit

Stand, stand, stand

Greetings to the descendants who arrived

From Hawaiki, from Tawhiti

Tawhiti nui, Tawhiti roa

Tawhiti pamamao

From Itaitewhenua

The great forecourt of Tane

That carries the life force

Of our genealogy to you

From the gods and the ancestors

To all those who have passed

Thanks to the Ocean Maid for embracing

The sacred vessels

From the Pacific Ocean

And the Space Maid for your shelter

Greetings

We come to establish ourselves

Inland and by the sea

Forever

May the fires of Mahuika burn

Settle, be settled

All of us

Two Maori (the Indigenous People of New Zealand) women cloaked in white stand out in stark relief against a high cliff face; their conversation is in a language indigenous to New Zealand. The karanga (welcoming call) they simultaneously perform is to an audience of several hundred people gathered for an opening event to celebrate 150 years of colonial occupation in Dunedin city. However, they could be standing on a marae (communal gathering place for Maori) undertaking this enactment as part of the pöwhiri (ritual welcome).

Tikanga (customs) Maori are dominant prevailing factors in defining my cultural worldview as it applies to - among other things - rimai, knowledge, spiritual influences and indeed performance on and off the marae. Contained within this ethical framework is the nature of kaupapa Maori, an underlying philosophy empowering my research, as I draw together threads of evidence from Maori lifeworld practice,1 oral tradition and written texts. As one of the Maori women standing on the precipice of that Dunedin cliff, I write not as a theatre anthropologist, but from an insider perspective informing you from a position of experience bridging my life practice in te ao Maori (the Maori world) and its interface with my performance practice in te ao whakaari (the theatre world). Ko tênei te mihi am ki a koutou katoa. (This is my greeting to you all.)

The implementation of an Indigenous perspective hallmarks this article as I critique the interchangeable ways in which Western theatre categories apply to the marae and the transformational relationship between performer and audience, grounded in a broad analysis of the pöwhiri and the features and functions of the marae atea (forecourt in front of the ancestral house). My question is: how does the marae, including the pöwhiri, compare to performance? …