Marae: a whakapapa of the Maori marae

Type of content
Theses / Dissertations
Publisher's DOI/URI
Thesis discipline
Maori Studies
Degree name
Doctor of Philosophy
University of Canterbury. Culture, Literature and Society
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Bennett, Adrian John Te Piki Kotuku

A whakapapa of the marae Whakapapa, a Maori word, is often abstracted to the English language as the word genealogy. Whakapapa however has a more subtle and comprehensive meaning in Maori. In that language it has complex connotations of genealogical lines, yes, but also the history of the people involved and perhaps most importantly, the inter-relationships between those people. Degrees of consanguinity are all important when establishing relationships within Te Ao Maori - the Maori world. Marae, the basis of this thesis, is another Maori word. A marae, at its simplest, might be referred to as an agglomeration of separated, functional buildings on an area of reserved land, usually deemed to be sacral to some extent. Marae have an ancient history both in New Zealand Maori culture, but really originating at least in part, in the older cultures from which our Maori culture was eventually derived, from other, earlier settled, Pacific Islands. This thesis then is a genealogy, a sort of cultural history of marae, but is based on the idea and Maori sense of the whakapapa and so partakes of the nuances involved. It is these additional complexities that are referred to by the use of the word whakapapa in the title of this thesis. This thesis investigates the lineage of the marae, tracing it back to legendary roots, but it also examines the relationships between the components of the marae and also the place the marae has established within Maori (and other) communities. Beyond the historical forms of the marae that this thesis investigates are the other aspects that delineate what a marae really is. It is not simply a group of buildings at all, although this is a common non-Maori understanding of its disposition. A marae is a tapu or sacred space, and within or nearby that space are buildings whose form, function and meaning have only come to their present conjunction in (written) historic times. What makes the marae is the combination of the people and the ritual that is involved on a marae, the marae space and lastly, the physical buildings. The buildings, particularly carved houses, have additional meaning that they lend to the thread of the story. They themselves represent the whakapapa of the marae, and specifically of the hapu (or sub-tribe) who inhabit that marae. They do this by direct representation, but also by analogy and by spiritual means that are little dealt with in most literature. Ancestors in Te Ao Maori are deemed to exist within the very fabric of the building and have a renewed or continuing existence that is created in the first instance by a melange of ritual and belief. This thesis discusses both the usage of ritual to create such physical interjacence, utilised in modern times within whare (houses), and the continued use of regular ritual on marae for human functions. It is only together that a complete modern marae is created. With any of these elements missing the marae form is truncated or lessened and diminished in some ways. So, marae which have been recreated in preserved forms, such as those in museums, are discussed at length in this thesis, by contrast with marae in regular usage for 'traditional' purposes. In essence then, this is an investigation of the marae, but in terms, manners and ways, which have not always been fully or comprehensively dealt with before.

marae, whakairo, houses, whare, Pacifc art, Maori, Oceanic art, Maori art, Maori architecture
Ngā upoko tukutuku/Māori subject headings
ANZSRC fields of research
Copyright Adrian John Te Piki Kotuku Bennett