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Wharenui door at backend  

Te Arawa Kotiro OWC
New Member

Help!!! feedback needed urgently as our marae is considering putting in a door at the back of our wharenui - I am very much against this and am about to say something at the next marae meeting. The way I interpret it is that the back of the wharenui represents the nono of the wharenui and this would be an insult to our tupuna if people are coming and going through a back door even if its only to use toilet facilities. If it was good enough for our old people decades ago to use the front door when they went to the toilets then why is this generation trying to modernise the wharenui for their own convenience? I strongly believe that there will be dire consequences dealt to those who do agree to go ahead with this project....They better all say a long karakia cos they'll need it - My iwi is Te Arawa

Posted : 09 January, 2008 1:38 pm
Active Member

Kia ora TeArawaKotiro,
I don't know much about where doors should be placed on a wharenui, but I do know that there is a marae in Waipiro Bay (Taharora Marae)on the East Coast which has a back door at the back end of the house. This door leads straight into the whare kai. My only suggestion is if you don't like the idea of a door being at the back of the wharenui, then just don't use it. I know a lot of people who won't go into this same marae because of the apparent exposure of women over the tatau, the three women make up the pare or lintel over the door, so a few men not all, up the Coast choose not to enter the house. I don't think however that there would have been houses pre-european that would've had a back door at the back of the wharenui, although I think a wharemaatao may use a second entrance at the back depending on where you're from.
I personally don't like seeing a door in the rear but for me that's because it is where they sometimes lay the tuupapaku. Maybe you should consult your old people.

Posted : 13 January, 2008 2:34 pm
tane_ariki OWC
Trusted Member

Kia Ora Te Arawa Kotiro,

Hm. If they want to have a back door to go to the whare tiko then perhaps at the back is most appropriate since as you said its like going through the nono of the whare lol.

The back of the whare is tapu to what I understand as that is where tupapaku are laid to rest during tangihanga, and the usual sleeping place of tohunga.

In saying that, the nono is tapu like the head is tapu. But the tapu of the nono is different to the tapu of the head.

One concern I have is the development of the single roof whare concept that some marae have opted for i.e. making the whare kai, whare nui and whare tiko come under one roof. However, this is the way things are heading. This is an unfortunate result of colonization and the removal and devaluation of matauranga Maori.

Like bpw1 I say you should consult your kaumatua on this one. I do know of some whare nui having two doors (the one in Mangere has three - the front, the right side and the back). The Auckland University whare nui has two (front and left hand side - the left hand side was installed for staff to be able to enter the whare nui discreetly during powhiri). Again, speak to your old people.

Posted : 13 January, 2008 4:38 pm
Huia bird
Active Member

Kia ora Te Arawa Kotiro

Stand by your beliefs and let your voice be heard at the next meeting. This is a valid concern. There 'is a reason' why a door was not put at the back in the first place.

It would be like changing the entrance to the Urupa 'wouldn't you agree'
Not acknowledging the Tupuna that have gone before you? Now that would be an insult.

I think this falls under the same category.

The way you have written you post, your heart is in the right place. And i would stand beside you.

Good luck to you, sometimes we do need a fresh voice to remind the old people, not all is gone and forgotten.

Posted : 13 January, 2008 9:12 pm
Gemini G OWC
Eminent Member

Kia Ora Te Arawa Kotiro,

Our sentiments are the same, there must never be a back door to the tupuna whare.

Maybe the people who desire a door put in the back of the whare tupuna, would like their identity as being Ngaticrap.

It is the house of our tupuna, and the foundation to our identity.

Posted : 14 January, 2008 1:18 pm
kuri OWC
Active Member

Kia ora Te Arawa Kotiro;

I have read this post with a mounting outrage, as a Ngapuhi I am reticent to voice an opinion regarding other iwi, so I have tried to accommodate new evolving views regarding things like tikanga and kawa.

I have watched the devolution of protocol regarding taapu on my own marae, within my own wharenui...as a child, I observed the strictures of my kuia and kaumatua, no food or drink, no smoking within the wharenui, as these things can no longer be enjoyed by the tupapaku, the wairua of our tupuna are also present at such occasions, as well as those brought on the backs of manuhiri; the whare tutae and the whare kai carry their significance as they deal with the reality of the living, contamination of tapu from te whare tutae should not enter te whare kai...and neither should enter te wharenui.

It should be remembered that te wharenui is a sacred place that welcomes both the living and the dead, the seen and unseen, the guardian tupuna has enough to contend with one entrance.

So I ask, is the purpose of the door for the tupapaku, your tupuna, or is it for the convenience of the living?

Posted : 14 January, 2008 3:51 pm
Active Member

tena koe e te tuahine

there are numerous wharenui with back doors that connect to wharepaku. Or covered walk ways that connect all buildings in some way shape or form.

Even in our rohe e hine, there are some like that.

And i have a photo of an original wharenui from mokoia island that had a back opening.

the paepae as we know was named after the rail once used to support ones self while having a tiko over the side of the bank. Yet now associated with the art of whaikorero!! most interesting!!

The tikanga of the marae you refer to is entirely up to you who belong there. There is no point soliciting external views on this one. Kei a koutou o koutou tikanga, kei a ratou o ratou tikanga.

My understanding from my koroua (Te Arawa) is that the old people were first and foremost realists and practical. He often laughed at much of the nonsense that currently goes on in the name of tikanga and said the old people would never have bothered with such idiocy.

even if the rear represents the backside, then why is that a bad thing? The entire body is sacred in equality.
I do not beleive it actualy does represent the backside because that is like saying people are sleeping by the bum. The back wall I note in many whare houses the photos. Again why are photos being hung on the bum???

The te arawa place for the tupapaku is the 3rd pouwhakairo on the right as opposed to the rear wall. There are various tikanga around this.

The tearawa wharenui pride a high standard generally of whakairo and innovation, and while being a place of strong protocol, the ability to be free thinking and practical is every bit a tikanga as much as any other.

Did you see the old doco on maori television recently with our tupuna koroua Hiko Hohepa and hare wikingi. The doco was on our tupuna hinemoa and tutanekai. It was intersting to note that originally the marae at owhata had two wharenui and a dining room. one wharenui was named tutanekai, the other hinemoa, and the wharekai was named hinemaru after the mother of hinemoa.

later this was changed, to the more common arrnagment of one wharenui named after the man and the wharekai named after the woman.

Personally I felt this was a loss of the original uniqueness of the way this romance of hero and heroine was celebrated.

My point is, uniqueness creates identity. And you and your people alone determine how you wish to build and outlay your marae and buildings.

kia ora


Posted : 15 January, 2008 8:33 am
Active Member

Kia Ora

We have a back door at our wharenui, but not in the middle, this was for safety reasons and it has been very useful, mainly for the pepe and little ones, especially if the paepae is inside, we must remember that way back in the old days, children were only heard but not seen, but to this day an age we rather take all the kids rather than leave them behind, I'm 50+ and we were'nt allowed any where near the Wharenui as a kid we use to think it was a place of evil, cos we use to get chased off the Marae, so in the end we never bothered going there at all and yet we lived right next door, and now I take my kids back there, we all do and they don't have the fear that we use to have.

Posted : 15 January, 2008 12:06 pm
Te Rangamahue OWC
Active Member

Put a door on the side of the wharemoe.

Fire safety!!!

I agree with no back door, but then our people matter, if there was too be a fire in the wharemoe (how did it get there? i dont know) Right in the middle then what could the kaumatua sleeping at that end do? yup get burnt or something. if there is a door on the side or the back then will you have two exits.

Fire safety is the reason we allowed it at Waihi.

Kia Ora

Edited by - Te Rangamahue on Jan 15 2008 9:25:35 PM

Posted : 15 January, 2008 9:23 pm
Active Member

the logic behind fire escapes is to have them as far apart as possible. So the back wall makes more sense as it is furtherest from the front wall.

Or if you put it in the far back corner of he side wall then it would still be close to the back.
Although, some may consider the far back corner to be too close to the "nono" back wall.

although for me personally, the back wall was never a nono. The personification of the ancestor in the wharenui never involved the private bodily parts in my view.


Posted : 16 January, 2008 7:14 am
rosetta smith OWC
New Member

Wow I have learned alot today.I personally agree whole-heartedly with DDD and the rest of you guys have some good points too.Love them all.Now it's having to go back to the drawing board and contemplate on which is right and why.I really like the idea of a back door for safety reasons.In todays age there are regulations in place.There are many families and children who care for their own safety and that is an issue that needs to be taken up by our elders.It's not about the past.Its about the present and ensuring that our people are in a safe enviroment.
Kia Ora

Posted : 03 February, 2008 3:43 pm
Huia bird
Active Member

Safe enviroment yes. So you really have to look at the bigger picture here.
Not just the building itself as a structure. But the two parts. The structure AND the spiritual value it holds.

Ill speak this lightly......
Would putting a back entrance into a wharenui thats has never had one, be safe in the tahawairua aspect?
Thus creating a new entrance point that our tupuna are unfamiliar with and never used?
Do you think it would not breathe an unwelcoming aspect of tahawairua?
Or in this today and age, Do we believe we are fully equipped in the knowledge of balance? And heres that word again .... "Safety" ...???

So i ask. look at the structure of the wharenui. Now look at the true purpose of the wharenui.
Then say, steer your attention to the stars tonight, just for a little while, and think upon someone that has passed on and you miss deeply.
Maybe you will think of the day your people became as one in a karakia of much aroha, for their safe journey. Because you know, this is how it was done by our tupuna, and you are steered under their guidance. Meeting together in these familiar structures.

familiar/unfamiliar. Safe/unsafe???

sprinkler system?? Smoke detectors??

Posted : 03 February, 2008 6:11 pm