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This research set out to explore the experiences of young Māori women while at tangi. The purpose of this investigation was to assess the attitudes that young Māori women hold towards tangihanga, the meanings that they create and the learning that they experience through this process. The interviews allowed the participants to express their opinions, attitudes and understanding towards

tangihanga. From the initial interviews summary reports were created, from these summaries further analysis was then undertaken to find main themes that were evident across the interviews and these themes are discussed below.


The word tangihanga translated means crying, weeping or funeral. In general the tangihanga refers to the gathering of family and friends to farewell a loved one.

This process usually occurs over a three to five day period, where family and friends gather together as soon as possible after the death of a loved one. For Māori, the tangi provides a way of fare-welling the dead and comforting those of the living (Dansey, 1995).

All participants were asked to express their opinions towards the tangihanga that they had attended. The participants shared fond memories and experiences of attending tangi as children and as young adults. For some of the participants attending tangi was a very normal experience and for others it was uncommon and very memorable. The amount of tangi that the participants had attended varied amongst the participants, as a couple of them had attended as little as two tangi and others had attended too many to count. The participant‟s thoughts, feelings and experiences at tangi are presented below from the participant‟s perspectives.

Kat shared her thoughts and experiences of being at the tangi of a close family member.

Well when I was little it was just really cool because all of us cousins got back together and you saw people that you never met before and we would always play bullrush and cool stuff like that, and you got to know

32 everyone and you realised your family is heaps bigger then you thought because I was pretty much brought up in a pākehā way by my mum and my dad so I didn‟t really have anything to do with the Māori side of the family. So we had like five cousins on my mums‟ side and then you go to a tangi and there‟s everybody who is your cousin and so it was real cool because everybody is just playing and stuff and then now when I went to nana‟s one last year it was real cool just catching up with everyone, all my cousins came over from Australia and stuff, it‟s good all helping out in the kitchen catching up

Keri had attended tangi since she was a young girl and explained that she could not put a number to the amount of tangi that she participated in, as attending tangi was a common practice for her and her family. She explained that while growing up her family would travel around the country to attend the tangi of relatives. This was important for them as there was an expectation that a representative from their whānau go to pay respects on behalf of the whole family, this expectation extended from close relatives to even distant relatives. This often meant travelling a long distance and being away from home for a period of time. Keri also

explained that as a young girl she would often attend the tangi of those that she did not know, but she would go as companion for her nana and a support to her.

yeah well not all the time would I know the person but if my grandmother is going I would go with her and then if there is a group of people I would probably be the one who would get up and either start the songs after the speaker or I would just support with the singing, yeah I probably only really go to look after my nan, yeah that‟s probably it and if like it‟s on a poroporoaki night I would probably just go and sing

Tess explained that she would only attend tangi with her father and her

grandparents and it was from them that she learnt about tikanga and protocols on the marae. She explained that she felt quite ignorant about the whole process and was unsure about what to wear or how to behave on the marae. Tess‟s

grandmother helped to clarify this for her as she explained what was considered appropriate behaviour and some of the meanings behind the practices.

33 My sister and my brother came, with my Nan and my granddad yes always with them… the person that I‟m talking about she was actually like my nana‟s brothers wife it was one of her relations, and her mum is Māori and that‟s our side of the family and… she is the one that like told us, because I was pretty ignorant to a lot of the stuff about it so she is the one who kind of prepped us

Rena attended tangi with her parents from a young age, she advised that she has had some close family members pass away. For her, attending tangihanga consisted of going through the formal proceedings, greeting the grieving family and then rushing for the kitchen to work alongside her family.

I stayed in the kitchen most of the time, as my mum she brought us up to and we had to. As soon as we go on to marae we go through the pōwhiri and then like after that we have to go straight into the kitchen, that was our role, and so ever since… well every time we go to a marae we always go into the kitchen after we do our little you know little session with everyone and then just go straight in there

Shay had also attended a number of tangi. She would always attend tangi with her mother. She explained that she hadn‟t attended the tangi of someone that was very close to her so attending tangi for her was about spending time with family and doing what she could to help the grieving family.

These experiences shared by the young women provide an understanding of how foundational the institution of tangihanga is for Māori. It also speaks to the

universal nature of death. All the participants had attended tangi and some of them recounted experiences from a young age. Although some of the women had limited contact with Māori communities they all had attended tangi with their whānau, and this attendance had provided them with a form of access to Māori cultural traditions. Research has suggested that gaining access to Māori

communities helps young people to form a positive ethnic identity. This is important as Webber (2012) found that a positive ethnic identity allowed young people to repel negative stereo-types and accommodate positive attributes.

34 Those participants that attended tangi more frequently were more familiar within the setting at tangi and were comfortable with both the formalities and the informalities of this occasion. These participants‟ experiences support the

statement that the tangi and its associated rituals are an enculturated pattern that is learned through repeat engagements that begin in childhood (Jacobs, et al., 2011).

Tikanga & Protocols

Tikanga is the set of beliefs associated with practices and procedures to be followed while conducting the affairs of a group or an individual (Mead, 2003).

The questions around this topic provided the participants with the opportunity to share their knowledge and understanding of the specific tikanga around the marae and more specifically the tikanga involved with tangihanga. Ngata (2005)

explains that this event is steeped with tapu and kawa and each hapū and/or iwi hold different customary practices following the death of a loved one, although there are threads of similarity that are found throughout Māoridom . The tikanga of the tangihanga describes the specific format and sequence of cultural processes and practices; which are widely understood and adhered to (Marsden, 1992; Mead, 2003; Walker, 1990).

Some of the major protocols within the tangihanga include: pōwhiri, karanga, hongi, waiata, whaikōrero and much more (Harawira, 1997). Many of the young women had been involved with some or all of these specific aspects whilst on the marae at tangihanga both as a member of the manuhiri and tangata whenua.

Rena recounted experiences of travelling to tangi and arriving late at night or in the early hours of the morning. She explained that she would be woken up and be expected to take part in the formal proceedings of pōwhiri no matter the hour. She explained that this was not something she always wanted to be involved with as she felt shy about meeting new people but as she put it, this often was not a choice for her to make. Her father made it clear that it was an expectation of her family to be actively involved in this particular part of the tangihanga.

when we get there we will make out like we‟re asleep in the van but we‟re not, and they are like get up where going in, and we don‟t want to and so we are like you go first, nah you go first…then you have to like sing songs

35 and dad always gets up and says a speech and then we all have to stand up and sing along in front of everybody and then I‟d get butterflies because I hate standing up and singing in front of big crowds and I‟d always have to be out front because dad‟ s like stand in the front and then he‟s like you better sing loud or else I‟ll deal to you after the tangi and I‟m like, oh ok The tangihanga for many of the women was a place of learning, as it was where they learned about some of the important aspects of Māori culture. Many of the women explained that they learnt as they attended with their grandmothers, kuia and aunties. Once the participants had been exposed to the tikanga and knew what was expected of them they became more comfortable and confident with taking part. Shay describes her thoughts from her first encounter with tangihanga and the pōwhiri process.

“Interesting yeah because of the different things that happen, I didn‟t know that it happened before and yeah it‟s a new experience and so yeah, it was cool”

Keri had a lot of experience with tangi and has built up quite a wealth of cultural knowledge. She explained that she learned about appropriate behaviour at tangi through her grandmother and this education started from a very young age. Keri recalled learning about specific tikanga or cultural practices inherently by just being present at tangi with family. She explained that through repetition and assistance she learnt about what was expected of her and others. Keri explained that at times she would think the tikanga of the marae was strange or different to what she had been accustomed to, but she would use others to guide her in the correct protocol. She would also ask questions of her grandmother when she didn‟t know why they would do something, or why things were done in a specific way and why in other instances they may have been required to do things in a different way. Keri‟s grandmother would explain and teach Keri and her sister about what was appropriate behaviour. Keri‟s older family members such as older cousins or aunties were also valuable sources of information to her. She explained that over time she became accustomed to those necessary practices that are an integral part of both tangihanga and marae protocols.

36 When I was younger, I always used to go to my grandmother and ask why do you do that, why do you do that? And she‟d tell me why, and she‟d go

„so make sure you do that daddadada, that when your older you do this and you do that‟, so then you just kind of remember it when your older and you just make sure and then you just automatically start doing it, ah that‟s from like a manuhiri perspective, like why do they do the karanga, why do they do this, why do they do that, yeah and then I suppose being there and being told and experiencing it you just pick it up and then you just know what to do

Nina considered tikanga as the rules of how you behave on the marae. She explained that she was required to hongi when on a marae and that overall it was important to be respectful to others. This included her personal appearance, as being dressed appropriately was important to her and her parents; she explained for her it was similar to going to church in a way that she would not wear something that was offensive to others. She also learned that it was important to not leave the body alone as she recalled that one of her aunt‟s or other family members would stay with her papa‟s body at all times.

when you go on a marae you hongi and stuff and be respectful and you don‟t wear certain things like hats, you never wear hats and beanies, you don‟t have a hood over your head respectful clothes something like not church wear but something respectful and then when we had to like sit on the floor or on mattresses and the older ones sit on the chairs and if we were sitting down or laying down and if an uncle comes over we have to stand up you know and then when there was work to be done we had to get up and do it and stuff yeah

For Tess just discussing tikanga and her experiences of tangihanga demonstrated to her how little she really knew about Māori cultural practices. She explained that she grew up with very little knowledge of things Māori as her father did not seem too interested. The Māori cultural has only recently become more important to her as she has gotten older. She explained that for her attending tangi at times was a scary experience as she was unsure about what to do and did not feel comfortable enough to ask questions and did not want to appear ignorant. This made it difficult

37 for her to learn from her experiences, but she now endeavours to challenge herself to learn more.

I really, really want to and it just was never like my dad is Māori but we‟ve never , it never was drummed into us when we were kids like we never ever really got to live like in a Māori worldview but I always wanted to and I don‟t know about jade and nick (brother and sister) but it‟s not like until I‟ve gotten older and stuff and pretty much coming to university and seeing that like having the opportunity to actually kind of take on some roles that allow me to kind of get in touch with my Māori side, it has kind of opened my eyes up to even wanting more kind of thing and so that‟s why I‟m doing mentoring and like a few other things but like it‟s just yeah and definitely in the next like, like sometime in the next five years it‟s my goal to do te reo Māori classes

Kat shared similar experiences of being unsure at tangi as a young girl.

I didn‟t know anything like, like I just walked straight in and everyone was like “no, no, no you‟ve got to wait” and I was like no and then um

apparently I was quite creepy like I kept looking at the body and kept going up and touching her, and stuff like that because I didn‟t know what it was because I think it was the first funeral I‟d ever been to so yeah The participants varied in their range of experience in this area as some had a wider range of experience within the marae setting and were very accustomed to cultural protocols while others were far less experienced. Yet all participants shared the things they enjoyed in regards to tikanga and the things they least enjoyed, they shared their understandings of how and why certain things were done in specific ways. This provides us with an understanding of how cultural knowledge may be imparted to younger generations today, but this sharing of knowledge was not experienced by all.

Many of the participants explained that often an older family member such as a grandmother would explain and teach them about cultural protocols, this appears to fit with traditional styles of teaching young people. A common strategy that was used for teaching young people within Māori society was for an elder to take

38 a young person under their care. This was referred to as Pukengatanga. The elder would teach the young person directly as a mentor and feed them knowledge. The student would be required to accompany the elder to hui and other special

occasions. In this case the young person functioned as a link between generations that ensured the survival of critical knowledge (Caddie, 2010). The experiences of the young women appear to be a modern version of this traditional concept of teaching and learning.

These findings may also highlight a lack of understanding or a lack of education for some young women today. As mentioned in the literature this may be due to a lack of access to cultural environments. Although all the women identified as being Māori a number of them explained that they had limited experiences with Te Ao Māori. This impacted on how they engaged in cultural settings such as being on the marae and engaging in customary practices at tangi.

Cultural Learning

As Kat had a limited amount of experience with tangi she noticed that she learned a lot while going to and being involved at tangi. In this instance Kat relayed how she learned about the tikanga that is involved with photos of the dead in the marae.

I didn‟t know about the photo‟s because it was her seventy fifth birthday the week before and I had taken heaps of photos and it ended up being one of the photos that I took and we had to cut Grand-dad and his sister out so it was just her because they were like no you can‟t have us in it because we‟re still alive yeah so that was new, yeah so I don‟t really go in assuming anything because I know I‟m going to go in and learn stuff just by seeing, and then so we had to go and find all these photos of all these dead people lucky heaps of people had died and we had all those photos on the wall but yeah we had to crop all these photos and all that kind of stuff For many of the young women learning more about their cultural heritage and taking part in customary practices was important. At times they found some things difficult but they appeared to appreciate the value in taking part and showing respect for the cultural aspects in the tangihanga. According to Durie (1994) Māori who identify as being „culturally‟ Māori have an understanding of their