Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Mike Butler: Clarity on Maorified protocol
It takes a visiting Danish politician to bring a moment of clarity to the rent-a-powhiri madness that occurs at any official function. Marie Krarup, who was welcomed on to the navy’s Te Taua Moana Marae last month, decried the wero or challenge, objected to being welcomed by a “half-naked” man “shouting and screaming in Maori”, and objected to being forced to touch noses.
Maori grievance expert Ranginui Walker told NewstalkZB that Krarup's comments were the result of ignorance, adding "very often politicians are not as well educated as they ought to be, perhaps haven't studied history." But was Krarup ignorant, or was she telling it as it is in an “emperor has no clothes” moment? Few living in New Zealand appeared willing to voice agreement with Krarup out of fear of being called a racist.
According to Maori.org.net, the word "wero" literally means - "to cast a spear". The purpose of the wero was to find out whether the visitors came in peace or in war. A warrior skilled in the use of weapons issues the wero.
This ritualised challenge all made sense in the chaotic society in New Zealand that preceded the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, when tribes lived in terror at the prospect that an enemy from up country may attack, kill, eat, and enslave the remainder while taking the village, land, and all resources.
If Krarup had studied history, she would have found this out and would have been doubly mystified why the government of a peaceful, unified country would use a challenge to find out whether visitors came in peace or war, a relic from a war-torn, savage age, to welcome guests from another friendly, peaceful country.
The only times I have directly encountered the welcoming challenge have been at Rotorua, where tourists are introduced to Maori culture, and at school or university prize-givings.
While the Rotorua shows are interesting and greatly enjoyed by the tourists who pay for the experience, the prize-giving welcome parties come over as an inappropriate timewaster.
While reflecting on the inappropriateness of ritualised challenges at every official event, I could not help but note the weapons training and culture of aggression that is conveyed through, not only the ritual welcomes, but through kapa haka teaching that takes place at schools.
The simple question is that if there is a culture of violence in the Maori community, why is the government sponsoring training in cultural violence through kapa haka? Besides, police regard the pukana, the wild dilated stare and eyeball rolling done by men and women when performing haka and waiata, as an offensive act when done outside of kapa haka for the purpose of intimidation.
at 1:31 PM