Hau Kainga

hau kāinga: (lit. home wind) homeland, homepage, the “side” of the hosts on the marae (as against that of the manuhiri or visitors)

Hoki mai ki te hau kāinga. “Return home.” (Return to your homeland, i.e., to your “home wind.”)

Dame Whina Cooper (1975):

Kia matāra, hokia o koutou tuohutanga e whai kanohi ai te hau kainga. “Take heed: swallow your pride and reconnect with those at home” (lit. “Be watchful: return to your humility and look for a face at home”; compare Shane Jones‘s translation).

Compare the Tuhoe whakatauki (proverb):

Hokia ki nga maunga kia purea koe e nga hau a Tawhirimatea. “Return to the mountains to be cleansed by the winds of Tawhirimatea.”

The idea that home would be marked by a wind, a certain atmosphere (hau takiwā), is suggestive. Like the Greek pneuma, the Latin spiritus and the German Geist, hau means both wind and spirit (lit. air, breath, gas; vital essence, vitality of human life; food used in ritual ceremonies, a.k.a. whangai hau).

The concept of hau has become something of a cause célèbre since Marcell Mauss wrote about it in The Gift (1922) as the spirit of reciprocity that attaches to a gift and in the circulation of gifts guarantees the social order. The hau demands that the gift be returned to its owner: it is the “force . . . in the thing given which compels the recipient to make a return” (1). Failure to reciprocate entails a loss of mana, that is, spiritual authority and wealth. A series of three obligations constitutes a gift proper (on my reading of Mauss):

  1. giving: asserting the social bond;
  2. receiving: accepting the social bond; and
  3. reciprocating: confirming the social bond by responding in kind.

(Mauss took the idea from Elsdon Best’s “Maori Forest Lore” [1909], not entirely unproblematically, as Marshall Sahlins explores at length in “The Spirit of the Gift” [1972].)

To return to hau kainga as “home wind”: think to what degree we  know a place by its winds — characteristic winds and other atmospherics, humidity, scent, etc. It is essential to — but often latent in — our experience of place and dwelling or otherwise: everything that lives breathes, after all.

We can go further: Heidegger sees the appearance and disappearance of being as a wind — a “draft” (Zugwind) he calls it — in the “pull” (Zug) of which “relation” (Bezug) only the strongest like Socrates (and presumably himself — and genuine poets too, like Hölderlin) can stand (What Is Called Thinking 17-18; on the poets, see “Remembrance” 109ff.). Thus,

The saying of the more venturesome which is more fully saying is the song. But “Song is existence,” says the third of the Sonnets to Orpheus, Part I. The word for existence, Dasein, is used here in the traditional sense of presence and as a synonym of Being. To sing, truly to say worldly existence, to say out of the haleness of the whole pure draft and to say only this, means: to belong to the precinct of beings themselves. This precinct, as the very nature of language, is Being itself. TO sing the song means to be present in what is present itself. It means: Dasein, existence. (“What Are Poets For?” 135; for an alternate translation, see “Why Poets?“)


  • Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share (1949; New York, NY: Zone, 1988). [This text is not available online; Benjamin Noys’s George Bataille: A Critical Introduction (London: Pluto, 2000) has a section on the Accursed Share that deals with the gift (108ff.).]
  • Elsdon Best, “Maori Forest Lore” (part 3), Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 42 (1909): 436-41 (“The Mauri of the Forest”).
  • Jacques Derrida, “‘Counterfeit Money’ 1: Poetics of Tobacco (Baudelaire, Painter of Modern Life),”  Given Time: Counterfeit Money, trans. Peggy Kamuf (Chicago, IL: UCP, 1994) 71-107.
  • Martin Heidegger, “Phenomenology and Theology,” trans. James G. Hart and John C. Maraldo, Pathmarks, ed. William McNeill (Cambridge: CUP, 1998) 39-62.
  • —. “Remembrance,” Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry, trans. Keith Hoeller (Amherst, NY: Humanity, 2000) 101-75. [On the wind as calling poets to their historical being (111).]
  • —. What Is Called Thinking, trans. J. Glenn Gray (NY: Harper & Row, 1968).
  • —. “Why Poets?,” Off the Beaten Track, trans. Julian Young and Kenneth Haynes (Cambridge, UK: CUP, 2002) 200-41; “What Are Poets For?,” Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper Collins, 1971) 87-141. [On poets as risk-takers, those who “by a breath risk more” (see 236-41/134-39 and “Phenomenology and Theology” 61-62).]
  • Marcel Mauss, The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, trans. Ian Cunnison (1922; London: Routledge, 1970).
  • Marshall Sahlins, “The Spirit of the Gift,” Stone Age Economics (Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter, 1972) 149-84.

4 thoughts on “Hau Kainga

  1. I’m reminded here of the name of of my hometown: te hau Māngere, lazy wind, after the māunga that provides shelter from the constant coastal westerlies. It is now a derisory Māngere (lazy), as newcomers forgot the wind, something people tied to the land seem to do.

    I wonder, and this is purely speculatory, if hau kāinga, home wind, is an artifact of a relationship to hau from tagata vaka moana, waka from hawaiki.

  2. Kia ora, George. A lazy wind is a great idea. Got this from the District Plan:
    “Mangere was named after Mangere Mountain by Rakataura, the senior Tohunga of the Tainui waka. The title comes from the Maori words ‘hau Mangere’ or ‘nga hau Mangere’ meaning the lazy winds, after the shelter the mountain provides from the prevailing powerful westerly wind. [. . .] Mangere Mountain was known to Maori as Te Upoko o Mataaho, or Te Pane o Mataaho, ‘the head of Mataaho.’ Mataaho is one of the deities of volcanoes and earthquakes. As the Auckland region is sited on a huge volcanic field the name Mataaho occurs quite frequently in early histories. More recently in the 17th century, Mangere Mountain was named Te Ara Pueru” (from http://www.towards2060.org.nz/assets/Resources/BackgroundDocuments/Mangere3.pdf).

  3. Pingback: From He Kupu o te Rā: hau kāinga, tūranga waewae « Te Ipu Pakore: The Broken Vessel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s