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Features of a marae

This clip outlines the main buildings on a marae – specifically the ancestral house, the dining hall, the ablutions facility, and the kitchen. Other possibilities are mentioned too, for example, a place of worship, flats for the elderly, a kōhanga reo, residences, and memorials.


Within an area that a marae stands on, you are going to have a set of buildings. The main buildings are the whare tipuna, the ancestral house, the wharekai, or the dining room, and those are the key buildings. Apart from those buildings there will be an ablutions area, there will be cooking facilities, there will be other buildings that may or may not exist on all marae. Nearby there may be a whare karakia, a church. There may also be other buildings like whare kaumātua, kaumātua flats. There could even be a kōhanga reo, so beyond that also then there might be homes. Some marae may have a memorial, a memorial to soldiers, a memorial to a particular tipuna and, you know, there are some marae also that may have prominent tipuna buried on that marae and, you know, in a way it just helps I suppose consolidate the collective or the whānau's responsibilities to that marae. Depending on the purpose for gathering, the flag will be raised. Again it indicates to a community that something is happening at the marae and it’s generally up for the duration of that gathering or that hui. For tangihanga, where I come from (and probably in most areas as well) the flag will be raised to the top of the flag mast, but once the corpse or the tūpāpaku arrives on the marae then it will come down to half mast. Then again it indicates to people going past there is a tangihanga in progress. So all of those things, whilst it may not be known, they are all signs that communicate certain things to people who are aware of that.

Brian Morris – Te Reo Māori and tikanga expert


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