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Mātua rā, me mihi

05 October 2018 - By Alana Thomas

In my previous articles, we explored different ways to incorporate te reo Māori within our profession and the benefits that will come from hearing, speaking and seeing te reo Māori more within the law. E whakapono tonu ana ahau ki aua kōrero! (which of course I still agree with!). And I hope you do now too.

For this article, I want to take a step back and, once again, look at that “first encounter” you may have with manuhiri, a client, the court and other instances where it will be appropriate to greet these people formally; we call that a “mihi” or a “whaikōrero”.

First, we should mihi (Mātua rā, me mihi).

What is the purpose of a mihi?

In te ao Māori (the Māori world), there are many instances in which we mihi. More often than not we mihi to welcome manuhiri (or guests), to respond to a welcome, to give thanks, to celebrate an occasion, to show respect to a person or kaupapa or, sometimes, just if you have something to say on an issue.

Mihi is a true example of the Māori culture and how our history, knowledge and reo are passed down through the generations and of te reo Māori as a living language, and we see mihi used every day.

An expert (or kirikawa) in mihi or whaikōrero will embody an array of metaphorical language and poetic literary within their kōrero to draw connections and relationships with those they are providing the mihi to, while also making sure they cover the reason why they have stood to mihi in the first place.

More often than not, there will be a number of emotions that you may feel in just the 10 minutes or so in which they are speaking. Te kaiwhakaniko o te kupu, te kaiwhakairo o te kōrero! (This is a true orator!)

I am not going to try and attempt to teach a mihi within this article (and neither do I profess to be an expert in this area), but rather I feel I can provide some simple examples you can use to begin your mihi in an appropriate way. From there, you can follow your own reo journey in order to fully understand what should embody the remainder of your kōrero.

Tauparapara

A good way to start a mihi is with a tauparapara (or an incantation). This is either from the area you are in or perhaps it may relate to the purpose of your hui or the reason you are standing to mihi in the first place.

A common tauparapara that you can use at most occasions is “Korihi mai te manu, tākiri mai te ata, ka ao, ka ao, ka awatea”. Roughly translated, this means, “The bird sings, the morning has dawned, the day has risen, behold there is light”. So, you can see that this can be adopted for many different occasions to begin a mihi. Whether you are greeting someone who has just arrived, beginning a new kaupapa, or meeting people for the first time, this would be appropriate for all those occasions.

Following a tauparapara, a mihi should acknowledge ngā atua. This will really depend on your hāhi (religion), your visitors’ hāhi or perhaps the beliefs of the iwi or hapū of that area.

It could be as simple as saying, “He mihi tēnei ki tō tātou kaihanga, ko ia te timatanga me te whakamutunga o ngā mea katoa” which roughly translates to: “I acknowledge our creator as he was the beginning and is the end of all things”.

Following these acknowledgements, there should be a separate mihi to those who have passed, to the whare or marae in which you stand and then also to te hunga ora (or the people who are still living) before speaking to your kaupapa kōrero or the particular reason for your mihi.

There are many ways to approach each of these sections of your mihi, and I encourage all those who are wanting to learn a mihi to find someone who can help you develop one that is right for you and your kaupapa.

As you can see there are many components involved and a lot of “bases to cover” but, once understood and exercised correctly, a mihi is the truest form of appreciation and respect that one could show others.

So, do a little bit of research, give a mihi a go and, don’t forget, practice makes perfect.

Mā te aha i te ngana!

Mātua rā, me mihi!


Alana Thomas alana.thomas@kaupare.co.nz is a director of Kaupare Consultancy. Before practising law she worked as a Deputy Registrar at the Māori Land Court in Whangarei.

Last updated on the 5th October 2018