Brief Discussion on the Role of Women in the Traditional Pōwhiri Process.

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Brief discussion on the role of women in the traditional pōwhiri process.

Women play vital roles in the process of traditional powhiri. The roles include the uplifting of the marae atea sacredness through the initial welcoming karanga and moreover by leading waiata tautoko after speeches (Māori.org.nz, n.d). Women of course played other important roles such as cooking and preparing kai for the manuhiri, weaving mats to eat on, and cleaning. However for the purpose of this article I will focus on karanga and leading waiata tautoko as being vital in the process of powhiri.

Karanga has been heard in Aotearoa for many generations. A powhiri cannot begin without it and it is the first voice heard in any powhiri (Edwards, 2002). The Karanga is a unique form of female oratory requiring skill and fluency in Te Reo Māori to perform. Karanga is tapu and is strictly reserved for women only (Māori.org.nz, n.d). It is of note that if a woman is menstruating or if she is pregnant, in both these states the women is forbidden to perform the karanga (Edwards, 2002). The sole purpose of the karanga is to open the sacredness of the marae atea thereby allowing a safe passage for the manuhiri to enter onto the marae (Māori.org.nz, n.d).

The karanga is initiated by the tangata whenua by calling on the visitors to the marae; the kaikaranga addresses the place, people, ancestors, purpose of the meeting and those gone before us. Women are free to use as much linguistic content as whaikorero do and can take as long as they wish during karanga (Māori.org.nz, n.d). A karanga must never be broken in terms of the women’s voice, it must always remain continuous as the karanga weaves and binds together the hosts and visitors deceased and living (Edwards, 2002).

Another important role women play in the process of traditional powhiri is leading the waiata tautoko after each kai korero has finished speaking. A waiata tautoko is a customary part of the powhiri process as it demonstrates...
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