Whaikōrero (and academic writing)

According to Kōrero Māori, the basic format for the whaikōrero (oratory) phase of a pōwhiri (formal welcome) is:

  • tauparapara (introductory salutation): a prayer or chant, suitable to occasion or purpose of the hui (meeting), to invoke the gods’ protection and to honour the visitors;
  • mihi ki te whare tupuna (acknowledgement of the ancestral house): a tribute to the principal ancestor and their descendants;
  • mihi ki a Papatūānuku (acknowledgement of Mother Earth): giving thanks for Mother Earth and all living things;
  • mihi ki te hunga mate (acknowledgement of the dead): a tribute to the dead who live on in the spirit realm;
  • mihi ki te hunga ora (acknowledgement of the living): giving thanks for our continued existence;
  • te take o te hui (purpose of the meeting): the purpose for which the groups have gathered; and
  • whakamutunga (conclusion): a waiata (song), suitable to the occasion or purpose of the hui, whereby the group lend support to what has been said and tapu (restrictions) is removed.

Joseph Jenner Merrett (1816?-1854). [The Hobson album]. A Meeting of Visitors Mounganui [Maunganui]. Tauraga [Tauranga] in the Distance. 1843. Hobson album. E-216-f-119. Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand/Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa.

In short, the elements are the introduction, the acknowledgement of the institution, of the place, of dead and living people, the purpose, and the conclusion. These are not unlike the elements of academic writing:

  • an occasion (kairos, καιρός: the right or opportune moment [as against chronos, κρόνος: clock time]) and a purpose (a thesis, θέσις: a position or proposition [as against topos, τόπος: location]);
  • an introduction and conclusion that address the occasion and purpose, but allow a degree of creative freedom; and
  • the body of the essay, which is institutionally and geographically situated, and draws on the authority of past and present authorities (a canon and a research community).

Protocols to determine the order of speakers vary, but there are two main arrangements:

  1. in tau-utūtu, tangata whenua (local) and manuhiri (visiting) speakers alternate, ending with a local speaker;
  2. in pāeke, all but one of the local speakers speak, followed by the visitors and the final local speaker.

Whaikōrero is formal in register, not unlike academic writing, and, like academic writing, it allows the relatively free combination of a set of devices and species of content: these include imagery, whakataukī (proverbs/sayings), pepeha (figures or forms of speech), kupu whakāri (prophecies), relevant whakapapa and references to tribal history.


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