What is a Pōwhiri?

What is a Pōwhiri?

The pōwhiri, a central part of Māori protocol, is a ceremony of welcome involving speeches, dancing, singing and hongi.

While traditionally used to welcome visitors on to marae - the sacred space or courtyard usually in front of Māori meeting houses - the ceremony is also commonly seen in everyday New Zealand life. Pōwhiri can happen anywhere that tangata whenua (hosts) wish to formally greet manuhiri (visitors).

Wero - the challenge
For most observers, the taki or wero, an aggressive challenge of the visitor at the beginning of the ceremony, is the most spectacular part of the pōwhiri.

During this part of the ceremony, three Māori warriors will advance cautiously towards the guests with ceremonial weapons, and perform threatening gestures and grimaces, calling out battle screams, and generally giving an impression of being ready to explode into violence against the visitors at any moment. Historically, this has roots in both showing off the martial prowess of the iwi (tribal) warriors, as well as testing the steadfastness of the visitors.

By accepting the rautapu, a symbolic offering - usually a leaf or carved effigy - placed on the ground by the leader before the visitors, this part of the ceremony is concluded.

Karanga - the call 
On some occasions the pōwhiri begins before the karanga (call); at other times, it begins after the karanga has started. At some point the karanga and the pōwhiri will take place at the same time.

For the pōwhiri, the kai karanga (female caller) usually stands to the side and slightly to the front of the tangata whenua. Those who take part in the pōwhiri include elders and young people - men and women. is a unique form of female oratory in which women bring a range of imagery and cultural expression to the first calls of welcome (and response) in the pōwhiri.

After the manuhiri and tangata whenua are seated, both sides will present speakers, beginning with the tangata whenua. The ceremonial tapu (sacred separation) is lifted when tangata whenua and manuhiri make physical contact through hongi (pressing of noses) or hariru (shaking hands).  Then a hākari (feast) - a shared meal - usually signifies the end of the pōwhiri.


He rae ki te rae, he ihu ki te ihu,
Te hau ka rere, te ha ka tau

A meeting of peoples, a mixing of cultures,
a blending of heritage, a sharing of future