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Ngā Wai E Rere Nei: The Physical and Symbolic Representations of Embodied Waters of Birth and Mourning

Recently, there has been considerable public debate and much consternation, especially amongst Māori, about the future New Zealand’s waterways. Māori have strongly held views, tikanga and cultural knowledge, about waterways and their deep connection to iwi (tribal/community) identity, history and sense of well-being. The waterways in public discussion are lakes, rivers, harbours and the ocean. This thesis examines deeper aspects of tikanga that relate to Māori concepts of waterways and oceans, but more specifically to the waterways of the human body which I refer to as embodied waters. Māori cultural concepts of water and tikanga that is applied to water, is interconnected to the wider body of knowledge or mātauranga, in which water, is fundamental to concepts of human and environmental life and death. The thesis examines the tikanga, meaning knowledge, values and practices, regarding the embodied waters, related to human procreation and death. The research examines the rich Māori knowledge base, relating to concepts such as te whare tangata, waiū, te ūkaipō, roimata and hupe which still have symbolic and material significance in Māori beliefs, values and practices. The research drew upon kaupapa Māori research approaches, as a way to examine tikanga, from a contemporary Māori perspective. My research examined recorded oral traditions and literatures, including whakatauākī, whakapapa, waiata mōteatea, haka and pūrākau, alongside other research literature in the field. The research approach also included an auto-ethnographic component that has enabled me to connect my own observations and practices, with this literature, to demonstrate how tikanga in relation to this knowledge is applied. The research focuses on two main iwi contexts, Tauranga where I was born and raised, and Waikato, where I have lived since I married into the iwi. The thesis reveals the interconnected philosophies, cultural concepts, values and practices that are embedded in language, rituals, traditions, stories and symbols. I argue that these tikanga, give coherence and guidance, to contemporary practise especially in the context of cultural revitalization, where communities are seeking to restore certain tikanga. The thesis also finds that the tikanga relating to embodied waters, for human life and death, still give meaning to the people and communities, who continue to adhere to tikanga, those traditions providing a cultural framework for understanding their identity.
Type of thesis
Dixon, N. M. (2013). Ngā Wai E Rere Nei: The Physical and Symbolic Representations of Embodied Waters of Birth and Mourning (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/8020
University of Waikato
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