What is it like to attend a pōwhiri?

What is it like to attend a pōwhiri?

It is common practice at NMIT to welcome manuhiri (visitors / guests), staff and students in a formal and traditional welcoming ceremony unique to the Māori & New Zealand culture.

If you are on the manuhiri side of the pōwhiri, you should expect to be welcomed as an honoured guest. The intention of the pōwhiri at NMIT is to do just that, welcome you and celebrate the beginning / continuing of your learning journey.

It is rich with symbolism and follows a special process ultimately uniting two separate groups: tangata whenua (hosts) and manuhiri (guests), together as one. Māori is the language used during pōwhiri. Whilst parts of a pōwhiri may vary according to the occasion and tribal area, Māori language remains a key feature.

The process of pōwhiri at NMIT

The gathering

Normally you will gather together as the manuhiri group before the process of the pōwhiri begins. There will be someone available to assist and inform you along every step of the way. This resource is to help you understand the process. During the time while you are gathering, you will be supported and instructed on proceedings and given a waiata (song) to learn to support your speaker.


Powhiri Karanga

The karanga (call) is a unique and special form of female oratory in which women bring the first articulation to the pōwhiri. It includes an exchange of calls reaching beyond the realms of generations and spaces, both physically and spiritually. Its traditional purpose is to weave a spiritual rope and connection, to pull the “waka (canoe)” of the visitors onto the marae safely. During karanga at NMIT, the caller is welcoming you and connecting together the 2 groups of people. The initial karanga will often be answered by someone representing the manuhiri (guests), and during this exchange people will be acknowledged, as well as their heritage / ancestry and loved ones who have passed away.


Powhiri Whakaeke

During the karanga you will have begun moving towards the area that the rest of the pōwhiri will take place. Generally at NMIT it will take place outside, weather permitting. There is a special seating arrangement for this process where the men sit on the paepae (special Orator’s bench) at the very front of the area. These front seats are only for the males to sit on, which stems from traditional times where they might have been required to protect the women. A speaker / speakers will have been chosen already to represent your group during these speeches.


Powhiri Whaikorero

The whaikōrero are formal speeches of communication between the 2 groups of people. The speeches will usually include acknowledgments of the land, place (in this case NMIT), those who have passed away, the people present and the purpose of the gathering. Within the context of welcoming new people to NMIT the speeches are usually full of metaphor, words of encouragement, inspiration, of welcoming and respect, honouring the beginning of your journey. The beauty of these orations will all be given in Te Reo Māori, the indigenous language of NZ. After each Whaikōrero there will be a song to support and cement the words spoken.

Waiata (kīnaki)

A waiata / Kīnaki (song) compliments and supports the words spoken during the speeches. Appropriate songs will have been selected that are meaningful to the intention of the pōwhiri: bringing people together and uniting under a common theme. You will have been given your song and can participate in this special event by joining in with the singing.

Hongi / Harirū

Powhiri Hongi

This is where the 2 groups are joined together in the shaking of hands and the pressing together of the nose and forehead. This symbolises the merging of the mauri (life force) and exchanges the “breath of life” which stems from the Māori creation mythology. It joins together the separate groups (hosts and guests) and finishes the pōwhiri ceremony with everyone united as one. Due to the high numbers associated with NMIT pōwhiri, a smaller number of individuals may be selected to represent their whole group.

This completes the NMIT pōwhiri.

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