Te kawe mate – Mourning ceremony

Tūpuna bequeathed whānau pani the kawe mate (mourning ceremony). Kawe mate is a ritual for taking the memory of the deceased to tangihanga and hui (gatherings) for a period of time (can be up to one year). This ceremonial practice provides another opportunity to reflect on the life of the deceased person and permits another opportunity for whānau pani to tangi (cry) for their loss. Whānau pani (the bereaved family) take the wairua (spirit) of the kaumātua to subsequent tangihanga and hui; this is represented in a photograph of them, which is carried by someone in front of their body. The kaumātua is spoken about during whaikōrero (speeches) and the mamae and pōuri of the whānau is acknowledged. Some iwi and whānau observe this practice more than other iwi and whānau.

Ngā Koha – Gifts, offerings, donations

Although the tikanga (customs) of koha (gifts, offerings and donations) is a tikanga that is still in place, this practice is not always being observed by manuhiri today. Traditionally koha would take many forms but today koha for tangihanga is usually in the form of money. Koha (often placed in an envelope) is laid down, in front of the people on the paepae, during speech making. A wāhine (woman) may acknowledge this with karanga. There may be a lack of understanding of the practice of giving koha today and perhaps some people do not have much to give. Koha is hugely supportive during tangihanga because it helps to reduce the financial drain on whānau pani who shoulder the funeral costs. As stated, some kaumātua make provision for their tangihanga prior to dying and some whānau make their own arrangements or take out funeral policies to cover these costs.

Kaumātua Hugh spoke about the various challenges faced by whānau who have a loved one pass while living away from home and then want to bring them back home for tangihanga. He expressed that these challenges are due to a lack of knowledge such as the whānau being responsible for bringing their own kai manaaki or ringawera (kitchen hands), grave diggers, and providing kai and covering costs:

Absolutely there’s a whole lot of things that don’t work in, in the favour of those that live away from home… not only are they now faced with having to provide and do their own service… they think they come back and the same people are waiting for them with open arms going to do the whole thing. They don’t realise that everybody either works or, or they’re old you know. Then…the locals provide the taumata… They [the whānau] bring everything else. Now the other problem and we’ve seen this faced with some whānau, is not only do they realise, realisation now that they have to do all of these things, but somebody has to pay for the food too you know. So, it’s not like what you’re saying. The koha as we know it, is not free anymore. Is not freely available anymore. You may see the odd koha given in the envelope and that sort of stuff. Ah often if not if you calmly add it all up it doesn’t go that far. It might cover cup of tea for a couple of days that sort of thing, but it doesn’t cover the big meals.

So, these people go away from, from the hui often with a, humongous bill and they’ve had to stay maybe an extra day because they didn’t clean the marae properly. You know… And I mean they, they add that all in I mean it’s the price of washing the linen, the, the replacement of, all of those add into the fact it might cost 400 bucks a day… Yeah that is cheap. That is cheap. But to some people it’s bloody expensive… Especially if you going to add the kai and everything else to it. User pays and it does, it does have an impact on diversing [making us more diverse] our culture to a different place. Not because we want to, it’s because of necessity and like Raewyn said earlier, we have tikanga. Tikanga’s not set in stone…’

Use of korowai during tangihanga

"Korowai can symbolise the fine balance between the spiritual and physical worlds; it symbolises warmth, identity, protection, mana and it gives a feeling of being embraced by the love of tūpuna and whānau. "

Korowai can symbolise the fine balance between the spiritual and physical worlds; it symbolises warmth, identity, protection, mana and it gives a feeling of being embraced by the love of tūpuna and whānau. The korowai provides spiritual protection; birds’ feathers symbolise a link with the spiritual realm. Some kaumātua and whanau have their own korowai, either traditional (passed down through the whanau) or contemporary. Some marae provide korowai to be used for tangihanga. These can be placed on the open casket inside the whare tūpuna by the kai karanga.

A karanga can accompany the placing on, and lifting off, of the korowai. If the korowai is to be buried with the kaumātua, the top (neck) of the korowai will be draped over the casket facing the wall. On the other hand, if the whānau pani wish to keep the korowai it will be placed with the top (neck) facing the doors of the whare tūpuna. Following the service, it is removed by the kai karanga before the casket leaves the whare tūpuna. Some iwi does not allow the korowai to be draped over the casket as it enters the wāhi tapu (burial ground) or urupā (cemetery) as some believe it should be lowered into the ground with the casket. Each iwi, hapū and marae will have their own way of doing things. Ask the kai karanga or the taumata for guidance.

Jeff spoke about a korowai being placed on his wife’s casket. Jeff’s sister in-law made sure that the korowai was placed correctly with the collar towards the feet so that it could be kept by the whānau pani and not buried with her at the nehu.

She had, she had that [korowai], that went straight on as soon as she got home… I was just about to turn it away because I never put one of these on before. I’m lucky my sister in law goes, ‘No, Jeff. Out of the way – [I will do it]’

Adorning the waka tūpāpaku (casket) with korowai is a beautiful and respectful tribute to esteemed kaumātua. Additional korowai was placed on Ripeka, as Jeff described:

But it didn’t stop there. When she got home to her mother’s house, they put another korowai on her. And when she got to the marae, she had three [in total] ... She had the marae one. She had three on her.

Tiki tūpāpaku – requesting the body

Sometimes relatives of the deceased kaumātua from another iwi may arrive to tono (request) the tūpāpaku to be taken back to their whenua (lands); this process is called tiki tūpāpaku. This is usually taken as a mark of deep love and great respect for the kaumātua by the taumata (orators) and whānau pani. Discussions between the taumata on the paepae and the visitors may take time. Debating who will have the privilege of keeping the body is a respected practice that honours the kaumātua and their whānau. The request reflects an expression of the visitor’s high regard for the kaumātua.

From time to time the relatives of someone who has died arrive at the marae and want to take the tūpāpaku to their kainga (homes) [and to lie at other whare ancestral meeting houses]. Kaumātua Arena and Whaea Hana reflected on how he provides support and advice to his whānau in these situations:

And I said, ‘don't be too critical if some people come in, ‘I'm taking my whanaunga (relative) home’ you know? ‘Don't be too sharp with him. Nō konei ia (he is from this place). They have a right. If a relation comes in, they have a right to that person,’ nē? (eh?) I said, ‘Especially if we know they can't take her,’ but we allow that, eh? Let them [kōrero]. ‘What we do now?’ And I said, ‘Hikina te wairua (uplift the spirit).’ Tohu (an instruction), ‘Just uplift the coffin’. ‘Tiro ki te Atua (look to God) and put em down.’

Interviewer Tess: And then you put the coffin down? You lift it up and put it down?

Whaea Hana: That’s the wairua (spirit).

Arena: ‘Kia tau te Rangimarie, ki waenganui ki a tātou heoi ano kia hokia te wairua pea ki tāku kainga’ ‘Let peace be amongst us to perhaps allow the return of the spirit to my home) – down’. Yep, that's how we do it, or sometimes we don't hold em. It's hard when you, it's hard sitting up there when you are on your own.

If the visitors decide to take the wairua of the kaumātua back home with them they will perform a short ritual before leaving the tūpāpaku behind to be buried there. The visitors will respectfully lift the casket up and hold it for a period of time (this differs in different areas but could last for several minutes or more) until they are sure they have the wairua with them. The visitors then place the casket down again and return home, taking the deceased’s wairua with them. A satisfactory agreement has been reached between the two groups. On both sides, this customary ritual is a way of visibly showing love and respect for the deceased kaumātua.

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