Tangihanga: The ultimate form of Māori cultural expression - overview of a research programme
Nikora, L.W., Te Awekotuku, N., Rua, M., Temara, P., Maxwell, T., Murphy, E., McRae, K. & Moeke-Maxwell, T. (2010). Tangihanga: The ultimate form of Māori cultural expression - overview of a research programme. In J.S. Te Rito & S.M. Healy (Eds.), Proceedings of the 4th International Traditional Knowledge Conference 2010: Kei Muri i te Kāpara he Tangata Kē Recognising, Engaging, Understanding Difference, (Pp.400-405). Auckland, New Zealand: Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7968
Death, observed through the process of tangihanga (time set aside to grieve and mourn, rites for the dead) or tangi (to grieve and mourn), is the ultimate form of Māori cultural expression. It is also the topic least studied by Māori or understood by outsiders, even after televised funeral rites of Māori leaders and intrusive media engagements with more humble family crises. It has prevailed as a cultural priority since earliest European contact, despite missionary and colonial impact and interference, and macabre Victorian fascination. Change is speculative rather than confirmed. Tangi and death rituals have yet to be rigorously examined in the Māori oral canon, or in the archival and historic record that may be discarded or reinforced by current practice. As researchers we are committed to studying tangi, conscious of the belief that such work carries the inherent risk of karanga aituā (inviting misfortune or even death itself) by drawing attention to it. Contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand is constantly touched by aspects of tangi practice through popular media and personal exposure. This volatile subject nevertheless demands careful and comprehensive scrutiny in order to extend and enrich the knowledge base, reveal the logic that guides ritual, inform the wider New Zealand community and, more importantly, support the cultural, social, ritual, economic and decision making processes of bereaved whānau (family, including extended family), people affiliated with marae (communal meeting complex) and iwi (tribe, tribal). This paper provides an overview of a research programme that began in July 2009, based at The University of Waikato. The programme is funded by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, the Marsden Fund of New Zealand and the Health Research Council of New Zealand.
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