Cloaked in Life and Death: Tangi and Taonga in a Contemporary Māori Whanau
Malcolm-Buchanan, V. A. (2014). Cloaked in Life and Death: Tangi and Taonga in a Contemporary Māori Whanau (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8679
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8679
This thesis is an examination of tangihanga (indigenous funerary practices) unique to the lived experience of the Māori of Aotearoa New Zealand, drawing on fieldwork undertaken amongst Māori, by a Māori. The introduction and influence of modern practices, ideologies, and articles of significance are considered, in the context of the ongoing traditions of tangihanga, a unique and critical collective occasion. This research navigates a tribally distinct journey by way of familial experiences of death in the Māori world. In particular, this work discusses and elucidates the select materials, objects and taonga (artefacts) observable during our funerary processes, as they engage the rubric of death, burial and initial mourning. Part I: speaks to theoretical and methodological aspects pertinent to the scope of the interdisciplinary work undertaken, and intellectually framed, by the disciplines of Anthropology and Tikanga Māori Cultural Studies. This includes participant observation fieldwork; death, ritual, liminality and oral traditions; the marae context; western and indigenous worldviews and epistemologies; as well as compositional mechanisms and tensions. Part II: addresses some logistics of tangihanga, and introduces key ethnohistoric and ethnographic reflexions, which lead into select participant interviews that act to inform the work. These provide the anthropological other voice, and explore realities and concepts which are at the same time distinct from, yet similar to, my own. Part III: relates five brief tangihanga narratives which present genealogically-inflected ethnographies of death, and facilitate discussions pertaining to the core focus of the thesis. Thereafter the substantive chapter material deliberates upon processes and experiences of the arrival of death in the Māori world, as we return to the marae and eventually embrace the final moments of closing the lid of the casket in preparation for interment. With time, we can see different, innovative ideas and practices being introduced as each new generation, with their respective priorities, subsequently metamorphose the complex rubric of tangihanga. For example, transnational Māori must find new ways to cope with tūpāpaku on foreign shores, and they can also be seen to introduce non-traditional elements when returning tūpāpaku home to Aotearoa. Concern regarding the dietary health of many Māori means we are more aware of the need to reduce fat, salt and sugar intakes, so on many marae meat is becoming leaner, whilst vegetarian and gluten free options are being increasingly considered. Also, premium wall space is diminishing as growing numbers of images arrive with the passing of kin members, so the likes of digital photo albums are being introduced; reflecting increasing new technologies on marae that also includes mobile phones, iPads, laptop computers and so forth. Change seems inevitable and change, in many forms, will continue to encroach on our cultural sensibilities and abodes. As older generations perpetuate age-old traditions, and younger generations acculturate new priorities, change is no longer on the horizon of our marae, but has arrived to affect tangihanga and marae practices. This said, the Māori remain pragmatic and resilient to the winds of change, and this study shows our ability to adapt, as and where need be, whilst also foreboding future generations be as adaptable and ready to change; at the same time as maintaining core cultural traditions and practices. In its most basic form this thesis shows that whilst it matters what clothes we dress our tūpāpaku in, the taonga displayed, the form of burial vessel chosen, mode of disposal and so forth, the rubric of tangihanga nonetheless prioritises the interests of Maori as a collective, communally sharing the complex logistics and burdens of death, as we celebrate a life lived, and lost, collectively. This research will primarily consider the use of tangible materials, objects, and artefacts observable in contemporary tangihanga experiences and question how modernising or secular ideologies have impacted funerary practices for 21st century Māori. Throughout the course of this research I also intend to look into: • What taonga, materials, and objects are observable at tangihanga and why? • Are these items deemed ritually symbolic, and if so how and why? • What is the familial and cultural relevance and significance of such items? • What (if any) values and ideologies do these items express, transpose and/or communicate? • What garments and or taonga are permitted (or not) to adorn the tūpāpaku? Why or why not? • Are all types of photographs and/or images permitted to be displayed, if so where, are there restrictions, and if so then what and why? • Does the immediate physical environment make any difference to the use of materials, objects and artefacts in funerary practices, and if so how and why? Twenty-first century Māori continue to hold fast to age-old traditions, at the same time as being flexible and adapting with changing times. This body of work considers aspects of our earlier funerary traditions, and discusses current traditions, before concluding with postulations regarding potential new practices. As Māori and Pākehā of Aotearoa NZ there is much we have yet to learn from each other, and still much more we might share with our other global contemporaries. Moe mai ra koutou i te moengaroa o te Ariki He tohu aroha tēnei mō koutou katoa
University of Waikato
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