Deatil of carved panel.

Performance and grief

He wāhine tangi haehae, he ngaru moana e kore e matoki | For grieving women and ocean waves, there is no rest – Leo Fowler Collection ATL Ref. 77-014-1/17

Take an audio tour with Paul Diamond one of the curators of Pūkana. Paul shares stories and highlights from the exhibition.

Listen to Paul Diamond talk about ‘Performance and grief’ in Pūkana

  • Transcript — performance and grief

    Finally, in this section there's a little part – somber part really about the connection between performance and grief, the pare kawakawa, which is the greenery that's worn during times of mourning. And, in fact, you can see the greenery. And one of the – there are three photos in this section, and one of them is Ripeka Love from Te Ati Awa, and in 1946 when Welcome to the Māori Battalion was happening on the waterfront on the wharf in Wellington.

    And below that is an image that Vicki-Anne found of the Awatere Māori Choir singing for the Kiwi Request Session at the British Forces Radio Station in Bari in Italy. And what those women were tangi-ing about was the return of those soldiers and, of course, the soldiers who hadn't come back or the soldiers who'd been wounded. And some of those are the men below though during the war sort of recording and singing and recording messages for people back at home.

    Then the last image in the section about performance and grief is an image from the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Christchurch in March 2019, which was something that happened while we were researching for ‘Pūkana’. And it was a horrendous thing to happen while we were thinking about Māori performance, but it was so significant we were thinking about ways of including it. We came across an image of schoolchildren doing haka outside one of the mosques, the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch.

    And this photo was taken by Associated Press by Vincent Tien, a photographer of Associated Press, which actually meant we had to buy this photo to use it. But again, remembering those foundational ideas in this exhibition of trying to see collections from a Māori perspective, we tried to find out who these girls were. Because the photo focuses on two girls.

    And we knew that the uniforms were Christchurch girls I think in Rangiura. And because Ariana Tikao, one of the other curators, is from Christchurch, she activated her networks and through funding their mothers we found out that this is Nakisha Kingi and Azaria Thompson. So that's a great example of ways that you can make the collections.

    You can make the collections work a bit harder, and you can ask different questions of the collections. And we've collected the websites with this image. This image went all around the world. It's been – on millions of websites.
    But it's great to have that information, and we've made contact with the girls. And one of them has actually written to us with her memories of that day. So it's – we might sort of revise our label and interpretation for this section. So, particularly the influence of Ariana really on me, that idea of always challenging yourself and not just thinking, oh, well, we don't have much that's actually collected by Māori, generated by Māori. You can actually ask different questions of the collections and tell different stories.

  • Transcript — performance and grief

    Finally, in this section there's a little part – somber part really about the connection between performance and grief, the pare kawakawa, which is the greenery that's worn during times of mourning. And, in fact, you can see the greenery. And one of the – there are three photos in this section, and one of them is Ripeka Love from Te Ati Awa, and in 1946 when Welcome to the Māori Battalion was happening on the waterfront on the wharf in Wellington.

    And below that is an image that Vicki-Anne found of the Awatere Māori Choir singing for the Kiwi Request Session at the British Forces Radio Station in Bari in Italy. And what those women were tangi-ing about was the return of those soldiers and, of course, the soldiers who hadn't come back or the soldiers who'd been wounded. And some of those are the men below though during the war sort of recording and singing and recording messages for people back at home.

    Then the last image in the section about performance and grief is an image from the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Christchurch in March 2019, which was something that happened while we were researching for ‘Pūkana’. And it was a horrendous thing to happen while we were thinking about Māori performance, but it was so significant we were thinking about ways of including it. We came across an image of schoolchildren doing haka outside one of the mosques, the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch.

    And this photo was taken by Associated Press by Vincent Tien, a photographer of Associated Press, which actually meant we had to buy this photo to use it. But again, remembering those foundational ideas in this exhibition of trying to see collections from a Māori perspective, we tried to find out who these girls were. Because the photo focuses on two girls.

    And we knew that the uniforms were Christchurch girls I think in Rangiura. And because Ariana Tikao, one of the other curators, is from Christchurch, she activated her networks and through funding their mothers we found out that this is Nakisha Kingi and Azaria Thompson. So that's a great example of ways that you can make the collections.

    You can make the collections work a bit harder, and you can ask different questions of the collections. And we've collected the websites with this image. This image went all around the world. It's been – on millions of websites.
    But it's great to have that information, and we've made contact with the girls. And one of them has actually written to us with her memories of that day. So it's – we might sort of revise our label and interpretation for this section. So, particularly the influence of Ariana really on me, that idea of always challenging yourself and not just thinking, oh, well, we don't have much that's actually collected by Māori, generated by Māori. You can actually ask different questions of the collections and tell different stories.

Discover more from the exhibition

He pare kawakawa

Nā Pita Sharples te kōrero mō ngā mahi tangi tūpāpaku a te iwi Māori, e mōhiotia nei ko te ‘tangi ā-wairua, ā-tinana, he tangi tīkapa – engari he whakahiato i te mamae o te katoa kia puta ai kia ora ai te ngākau’ hei tikanga ‘tohatoha, hiki hoki i te taumaha i ō mātou pakihiwi’.

Ina pā mai a Aituā, ka rongo te whānau pani me te hapori whānui i te mamaetanga, nā ngā hononga ā-whakapapa. Ahakoa ēnei 200 tau o te tata mai o ngā tikanga Pākehā, kei te mau tonu ngā tikanga tūturu o te tangihanga.
Hei ngā tangihanga puta ai ngā momo whakakitenga maha, ko te karanga tērā, ko te whaikōrero tērā, ko te waiata i ngā tini momo waiata, me te taki ngangahau i ngā kōrero paki.

Performance and grief

Pita Sharples once described Māori mourning ceremonies, known as tangihanga, as ‘intimate, personal and excruciatingly intense – and also a process of incredible collective therapy’ designed to ‘share and lift the weight off our shoulders’.

When a death occurs, it is a loss to both the whānau pani (close relatives) and the wider community, due to their whakapapa connections. Despite 200 years of contact with Pākehā culture, traditional ways of mourning endure.

Tangihanga involves various aspects of performance, including karanga, whaikōrero, the singing of many types of waiata, and vibrant storytelling.

Māori believe the more wailing and carrying-on, the better. It’s healthy. It honours the dead – Moana Maniapoto

A group of Māori men standing around an old-fashioned microphone singing.

Feature image at top of page: Detail of Ka Mate. Carving in Totara by Para Matchitt.Date: 1987 (acquisition) By: Matchitt, Paratene, 1933-
Formerly in National Library collection. Transferred to Parliament collection.
Photo by Mark Beatty.