The pōwhiri is a significant Māori protocol that involves the sacred engagement and ceremonial process of welcome by the home people (hosts or tangata whenua) to the visitors (manuhiri). Essentially this is about two groups of people coming together and negotiating the terms of their engagement and finishing with visitors joining their hosts as one.
Whilst it is a customary practice for Māori to welcome visitors onto marae – (sacred space in front of Māori meeting houses), pōwhiri is commonly seen in everyday New Zealand life.
The pōwhiri signifies a spiritual journey of honouring a higher power, the spirituality of people and their connection to their lands, with ancestors remembered and kinship ties reinforced. It is also when intentions in the engagement are ascertained, issues debated and lobbying carried out.
Wero – the challenge
A kaiwero (Māori warrior) will commence the process with a challenge. During this part of the ceremony the Māori warrior will advance cautiously towards the guests with a ceremonial weapon, performing gestures, calling out and giving an impression of being ready to defend the home people against the visitors at any moment. This has roots in demonstrating the strength of the local people, as well as testing the steadfastness of the visitors.
Karanga – the call
Simultaneously the pōwhiri will commence with a Māori woman’s Karanga (call). The Kai Karanga (Māori female caller) will stand to the side and slightly to the front of the main room and will call to the visitors to come into the room. A replying Kai Karanga (Māori female caller) will respond in a call. She will help lead the dignitaries, and Congress keynote speakers into the main room to their designated places.
When all Congress participants are seated in the main room, both sides will present speakers, beginning with the tangata whenua (hosts). The ceremonial sacredness is lifted when tangata whenua (hosts) and manuhiri (key guests), following speeches, make physical contact through hongi (pressing of noses) and hariru (shaking hands).
Once this has been completed the opening of RANZCP Congress 2018 will commence.