Noho Marae Culture Weekend

Flashback: March 11-13th, 2011

Ki Ora!  (That means hello, sort of like Aloha or Namaste)  I am so excited to share with you my weekend of learning about the inidgenous culture here in Aotearoa (New Zealand): The Maori Culture!

We arrived on Friday afternoon, anxious with anticipation!  We couldn’t wait to get started! One of the first things that Lucky (our MC, if you will) explained to us is that this weekend, we were on Maori time.  Huh?  He explained, “we Maori do not have a strict attachment to time.”  That’ll be a new experience for me, then!  And it was.  The whole weekend was.

We kicked the weekend off with a welcoming ceremony.  Gender roles are very defined in Maori culture, which is something I don’t completely agree with, but whole-heartedly respect.  We were welcomed into the marae (the traditional Maori building) by the sound of a woman singing.  The women had to walk in first, according to tradition, but we had to sit in the back, with the men in front (excuse me?!).  Then there was a lot of speaking in Maori, which of course I didn’t understand a word of, but it sounds beautiful!  They were saying things to honor and remember our ancestors, those who have passed, and those who are far away.  That was pretty special to me seeing as everyone I care about (well, except Hannah) are far, far away from me right now. I was thinking about you guys! ❤

Then, we did the hongi which is a traditional greeting.  When you shake hands and say “ki ora!” you gently press your noses together.  They do this to share their breath, the essence of life.  Following the hongi is a kiss on the cheek for all the ladies.  Ohh yeah.  (Men do not do it to each other.)

After that, we did a very cool language exercise.  We had a card that taught us how to greet someone, ask their name and then tell them your name.  Also on the card was how to ask what their last name is and tell them yours.  We were all given a last name that was the Maori word for a certain color.  We had to walk around the room and, using only Maori, find our family members!  Whanau, or family, is another huge part of Maori culture.  You are defined by who your family is, and it is the most important thing in their lives.  Your family is defined by your immediate family, your ancestors, and other important people such as your friends.

After the (very challenging!) exercise and we were all in our new color family groups, we introduced each other to the crowd.  There were so many foreign names that were hard for me to remember!  This event is for international students, and AUT has a lot!  From Norway, Canada, India, France, Germany, and more!  I met a lot of them this weekend.  Another impressive thing is most of them are English learners!  I cannot imagine going to school in a country without my native language.  That would be so. hard.  Also it must have been harder for them to learn Maori through English translations!

After the name game, it was time for some singing!  Yay for me!  We learned the melody for two traditional Maori songs, which we would be learning more in-depth the next day.  But in the meantime, it was

International Potluck time!

After dinner, we were all invited to spend the night.  Hannah and I decided that it would be super fun and the best way to immerse ourselves in Maori culture as much as possible.  We set up our matresses!


We spent the evening in proper sleepover fashion: playing cards and watching movies.  It was fun, but the snoring all night and drunken people coming back at 4am was not so fun.  We didn’t sleep very well, which was a shame because we had a big day planned for Saturday!

We were in for a super busy day!  We would spend the day learning a few songs and dances, and we were to perform them for an audience before dinner!  Yikes-o-man!

But I have to tell you, it was all fun and no stress.  First we learned the stick game:


All you do is bang, click together, and toss the sticks to the beat of a song, E Aue!  It is used to teach young Maori children hand-eye coordination.  Here are the lyrics to the song:

E aue, ka mate au

E hine hoki mai ra

E papa waiari

Taku nei mahi

Taku nei mahi

Tuku roimata

Maku e kaute

O hikoitanga

Na maku e kaute o hikointanga

I don’t have the translation to the song, but it’s got something to do with being far away from your lover, boo-frickin-hoo. 


Tossing the sticks was quite the challenge!  It was super fun though, and we got the hang of it eventually!  After each verse, you get to go back to the first verse and do a very simple pattern.  And I could even sing along to the song for a bit!  But it took mad concentration. And hand-eye coordination, of which I do not have much, lol

Next was a workshop to learn the songs a bit more detailed!

First was Pokarekare Ana, a most beautiful song 🙂

Pokarekare ana (They are agitated)

Nga wai o Waiapu (The waters of Waiapu)

Whiti atu koe hine (But when you cross over girl)

mario ana e (they will be calm)

e hine e (Oh girl)

hoki mair ra (return to me)

ka mate ahau (I could die)

i te aroha e (Of love for you)

And guess who got a solo? 😉  I really missed learning music.  And singing!

Then we learned Tutira Mai Nga Iwi

Tutira mai nga iwi (They are agitated)

tatou tatou e (all of us, all of us)

tutira mai gna iwi (stand in row, people)

tatou tatou e (they will be calm)

whai-a te marama-tanga (Seek after knowledge)

me to aroha – e gna iwi! (And love of others – everbody!)

Ki-a tapa-tahi (Think as one)

Ki-a ko-tahi ra (Act as one)

Tatou tatou e (by my tears)

This is an “action song” which means it has a little dance that goes along with it.  It was fun and easy, and it sort of reminded me of the hula!

After lunch, the guys and girls split up.  We each made a poi!  A poi is a twirly thing that women use in traditional Maori dances.  First, we started by braiding in the cord.  Then we add a lot of foam to the end and wrap it tightly in plastic.


Then we made the end all tassle-y and pretty. It was so fun to spin around!


But then it broke 😦  But it wasn’t a big deal because Rose, the woman who taught us how to make them, helped me fix it.


After mine was good as new, we learned how to dance with them!

We learned a formation dance to Tutira Mai Nga Iwi.  It was so complicated to keep swinging the poi around in a figure-8 motion, while doing dance steps at the same time!  While we learned the dance, they encouraged us to “act sexy for the boys” with the expressions on our faces, and be sure to smile!  We were told “you have hips—use ‘em!” when apparently we weren’t swinging them enough.  Also there were references to showing off our cleavage when we swung the poi low.  Umm……k.  Apparently it’s all about impressing the men in this culture!

Before we knew it, break was over and it was time to get up on that stage!  I love the nervous excitement of putting on the show.  I missed it! It’s so fun!  First, we exhibited our skills at the stick game!  Hannah and I barely messed up at all, if you can imagine!  She’s a great partner, I always want her on my team!  Then, we sang Pokarekare Ana and performed Tutuira Mai Nga Iwi with the “actions.”  We sounded and looked beautiful, I can assure you 🙂  It sounded especially amazing with the guitar.  Then us girls got to show off our dance.  We rocked it, I think, because the boys were cheering like mad!  They were a great audience, it was so fun to perform with such positive feedback!

Then, the boys scurried off outside to prepare for their performance: the haka.


I was surprised when they walked in without shirts on!  But I was pleased 😉


The point of the haka is to get psyched up before a battle and to scare your enemies.


But it’s also to express to the women of your tribe that you would die for them


and that they will fight like crazy to protect the whanau


I can’t argue with that.


It gave me goosebumps!


They were so fierce.

After the performance was a traditional Maori dinner.

After dinner, they had rented out the bar on campus just for the Noho Marae crew!  Lucky loved to tell me about what a makomako (songbird) I am while we both hid from the “boat races.”  The boat races are a drinking game in which a team of Maori people race a team from another nation.  The teams must have 5 people, and one must be a girl (but NOT me!)  They sit in a line and they have to chug their “vessel” and touch it to the tops of their heads when it is empty, then the next person in line can go.  The first team to complete wins!  And guess who won EVERY time?  The Maoris.  They faced Teams Denmark, Germany, Norway, and USA, but they were no match.  It was outrageous to watch!  They certainly know how to party!

We finished off the weekend on Sunday with a closing ceremony.  Each country had to group up and plan a performance for the rest of the group as a gesture of thanks.  Us Americans tried to write a rap, but we ended up doing something much better, if you ask me.  We started by singing “This Land is Your Land” very lamely, then switching on “YMCA” and getting everyone up and dancing.  They LOVED it!  Everyone was so into it, having such a great time.  The other performances were great as well!



France: The did the “Hokey Pokey” but I think it was called the “Boogie Boogie!”




India: They did Jai-Ho, from Slumdog Millionair!


Sweden: Fun duck quacking around a post dance!


Norway: They said something about how this song and dance kept their teams warm during the olymics!


Mexico: After some traditional songs, they did the Macarena!


Austria: The Vienese Waltz!


Germany: Oktoberfest Medly


They finished it off strong. One of the best parts of the weekend was that everyone who attended was so enthusiastic and eager to learn about the Maori culture.  It makes it so much more fun when everyone is super into it and excited about it.

The closing ceremony ended with more singing and dancing for us (to reciprocate the thanks, such a HUGE part of their culture!):


And, of course, all of us sang together one last time: Pokarekare Ana


And we got our Tshirts!


I had such an amazing weekend.  I learned so much about Maori culture, got to try so many new things, eat so many new foods, and learned some songs I hope I will never forget.  But the best part, I gained a new Whanau!


The Maori people were so nice and friendly in a way that was not fake or overbearing.  They were helpful and welcoming, and so happy to be sharing and teaching their ways with us.  They were also eager to learn about our culture, too!  It was just genuine love.  Also, they are hilarious!  Here are the translations they gave us:


Lol “sorry, you’re not my type”  Also, “scull, scull scull” is Kiwi-speak for “chug chug chug” They also know how to have a good time!  And I good time I sure did have!



Filed under New Zealand

2 responses to “Noho Marae Culture Weekend

  1. Pingback: Our weekends start on Tuesdays… | Namaste Everyday

  2. Pingback: My Real Nams is Miss Jenkins | Namaste Everyday

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