Kōpinga Marae

Kōpinga Marae was built to enable the re-establishment of a central base on Rēkohu, where Moriori could meet, celebrate, debate and just be together.  For many years, since the re-establishment of the Imi moriori had no meeting place of their own and were spread across the islands and New Zealand.

The Marae is seen as an important step in re-establishing Moriori identity on Rēkohu. It is a tribute to the ancestor’s legacy of peace.

The central Pou which sits on the Tūahu in the centre of the house is a dedication to them and the sacrifices they made in holding fast to the covenant of peace in the face of the greatest provocation they had ever faced.

On this hand-crafted pou is engraved the names of the 1663 Moriori that were alive on the islands when Māori invaded in 1835.

This marae is a deeply spiritual place and a warm and safe environment. The Marae is one of the most popular places to visit on Rēkohu.

The main whare is called “Hokomenetai”, which means to gather together in peace.
The design of the marae is based on traditional values and concepts but built with contemporary materials. The pentagonal design is inspired by the 5 sided basalt columns on Rēkohu where Moriori made their adzes and other tools and also reflects that Moriori traditionally met in large circular open air gatherings among Kōpi trees (such as those at Te Awapatiki).

The ‘arms’ extending either side of the main whare (for kitchen/dining on the left and office space and bathrooms/laundry on the right) represent the arms of a carved ‘rākau momori’ tree figure of a human as seen from old tree carvings. From the air the building looks like a large hopo or albatross in flight. The hopo is culturally significant to Moriori as a source of food but also a source of spiritual inspiration. Moriori wore the feathers of the hopo in their hair and beards as symbols of peace. Stone patu were also made in the shape of young hopo.

The marae is not only used as a venue for meetings and to showcase visitors more of moriori culture, it also is used an an education centre, often by local primary schools and students researching peace and conflict studies at Otago University.

This research will focus on Moriori and indigenous history and traditions of peace making as part of of the partnership agreement that Hokotehi has with Otago University and the Aotearoa NZ Peace Trust.

Kōpinga Marae has become pivotal in the inspiration, revival and future growth and development of Moriori people.

It has also become an important facility for the whole Island to enjoy and regularly hosts a range of community events. It is also the Civil emergency welfare centre for the Chathams

Kawa (protocols) – First time visitors to Kōpinga will be welcomed with a hokomaurahiri which enables visitors to be greeted respectfully and become connected to the place. The ceremony will take place around the tūahu. Moriori will speak first and welcome you, then offer an opportunity for you to reply. Women may speak and any language may be used.

It is good custom to follow your response with an appropriate song. The Tūahu is a place where gifts and tributes are placed. If you wish to bring a symbol of peace or something from your country you are welcome to place your gift on the tūahu during the welcome. This ceremony is also the appropriate time for the offer of koha (donation towards hospitality). The hokomaurahiri always concludes with a hongi (pressing of noses)
and a meal or refreshments. 

From the New Zealand Herald.

When the leaders of most of New Zealand’s Māori tribes arrived for the opening of the Chatham Islands’ Kōpinga Marae in January, some were bewildered. As they walked over the brow of a hill to approach the marae through a carpark, there was no public space where they could gather to hear welcoming speeches, as there is at mainland New Zealand marae.

Instead of the traditional carved external porch with seats to enjoy the sun after the speeches, an enclosed porch leads through grand wooden doors into a small museum area containing important Moriori relics. To cap it all, the meeting-house is not rectangular in traditional style but five-sided and built around a central pole.

It is unlike any other marae, built to emphasise the uniqueness of the Moriori people. “It was a blank canvas,” says Leo Watson, the Pākehā lawyer from Paekakariki, who manages the Hokotehi Moriori Trust set up to operate the marae.

When Te Atiawa people occupied the Chathams and enslaved the Moriori in 1835, most of the customs and traditions of 500 years of Moriori culture were lost.

“Other iwi have suffered a lot through the loss of their language and culture,” Watson says. “Moriori are unique in having to get back to the original carvings and research and then, through consultation with their own members, build up a modern manifestation of what their traditional protocols were and how they could be used in this day and age. This marae reflects that connection to the old with a new way of doing things.”

Mainland-style marae were never a feature of Moriori tradition because the ancient Moriori moved around collecting food. Agriculture, the basis of mainland villages, was impossible in the Chathams.

Kōpinga (grove of the kopi tree), a $4 million centre built with income earned from the fishing quota, looks out from a high point near the centre of the island across Lake Huro and the lagoon to Te Awapatiki.

It is full of symbolism. Its five sides are inspired by unusual five-sided basalt columns along the shore at Ohira on the Port Hutt Rd, and by the shape of an albatross, a bird that dominates these oceanic islands.

Human faces engraved into kopi trees in the Hāpūpū Reserve on the northeast of the island, and seals or birds carved into limestone caves on the edge of the lagoon, have inspired panels around the walls created by modern carvers led by Massey University lecturer Mana Cracknell.

The central pole bears the names of all 1663 Moriori who were alive in 1835, compiled by 33 elders at another meeting at Te Awapatiki in 1862 and sent to Governor Sir George Grey with a plea to expel the Atiawa invaders. A wooden floor around the pole provides a speaking platform.

“The welcome is inside. That is as much a practical factor as anything else – the weather here and the height of this place dictated that,” Watson says.

Kōpinga dramatises a revival of Moriori pride in their heritage after a long period when, as marae chairman Alfred Preece says, “It was something you hid away. There was shame attached to it and there was also disadvantage. That has changed in the past 20 years.”


The Prime Minister at the Opening of Kōpinga

To distinguished guests, tenâ kotou, tenâ kotou, tenâ kotou.
To Moriori, tchakat henu, people of Rēkohu – thank you for your kind welcome.
Thank you for inviting me here today to share this very special occasion – the opening of Kōpinga Marae. This is an event of national significance for the people of Rēkohu and of New Zealand, as this is the first marae ever to be built in recognition of the Moriori people of Rēkohu.
Thus it is fitting that it is being opened in the presence of so many people, both from Rēkohu and from mainland New Zealand – and it is especially fitting to see the huge response from Moriori descendents.  The building of Kōpinga Marae is an important step in affirming the identity of Moriori. This will be a central base, here on Rēkohu, to which your people can come, from wherever they live, feel at home, and debate issues important to you as a people.
Today is also a celebration of Moriori people and a way of life which developed over centuries in this beautiful but rugged and isolated place.
One aspect of the Moriori culture which stands out was the practice of peace. The Moriori ancestor, Nunuku, banned warfare, decreeing that disputes could be settled by duel but must end immediately when blood was drawn.
We acknowledge today the Moriori ancestors, particularly those who lived in 1835 and whose names are carved upon the ancestral pou that sits inside the whare, and we acknowledge the legacy of peace for which they sacrificed so much.  This whare is a special place. The design symbolises the hopo, the albatross with out-spread wings, a sacred bird of the Moriori.
The marae’s name – Kōpinga – tells us of the ancient gathering place of Moriori amongst the kopi grove trees on the Island.
We can see that the design of the whare has been inspired by the work of the Moriori ancestors. It captures the essence of what is known of the Moriori people, their carvings, their culture, and their connection to this special environment and its flora and fauna.
The building of this marae has been a long and arduous journey of fundraising, seeking sponsorship, donations of money and the ongoing support from local families, and families in New Zealand and further afield.
Raising funds to build this beautiful house is a major achievement, and I congratulate all those responsible and thank those who have helped.
There have been many people involved in this project, from those who conceptualised the project, to the designers, construction workers, project mangers, and all those who contributed to the funding. I also acknowledge those who managed and led the project – the Hokotehi Moriori Trust, chaired by Alfred Preece and Maui Solomon, the Chief Executive Officer Leo Watson, and the tohunga who provided spiritual guidance, Mana Cracknell.
I understand that the wider community of Rēkohu has also played a role in the establishment of this marae. It is fitting then that the facilities here will provide a resource for the whole community. The marae will be used for holding community events and is already identified as a Civil Emergency Centre.

I commend the whole community of the Chatham Islands for embracing this celebration.
Thank you all. Me rongo.

  Rt. Hon Helen Clark   21/01/2005    www.beehive.govt.nz/ViewDocument.aspx?DocumentID=22018

On a traditional Marae

Going on to the marae” means entering into an encounter situation, where challenges are met and issues are debated. All newcomers to the marae must be greeted formally by the tangata whenua (hosts), whether in the warmth of a welcome, in the sadness of a tangihanga or even in a verbal battle on mutual issues. It is the place where people formally come together on a specific occasion for a specific function. Each marae has it’s own procedure ‘kawa’  and this may vary from iwi to iwi.

The Meeting House.
The marae and the meeting house are complementary and together serve as the focal point for the community.

The whare hui (meeting house) is normally the major central building and in the north Island, often ornately carved. The meeting house has many names, including whare tupuna and whare hui etc., and in nearly all cases it is not only named after an ancestor but it is structured to  symbolically represent the ancestor. Thus the carved figure (tekoteko) on the roof top in the front represents the ancestor’s head, the carved angles from the head down towards the ground (maihi) represent the arms, the ridge pole to the carved figures around the walls (poupou) represent the ribs.

The poupou are normally carved ancestors representing other tribes. Poupou then function as identifying the whakapapa of the tribe and creates a sense of belonging.

The uprights, normally two holding up the tahuhu, represent connection between Ranginui the sky father and Papatuanuku the earth mother. While there are other interpretations it follows appropriately that meeting houses are named after an ancestor. Thus, on entering the house it can be seen as entering into the bosom of the ancestor.

The interactions between people on the grounds when being called on to the marae can be and should be significantly different from the type of interaction which is normally encouraged inside the house. It is believed that inside the house the Guardian of Peace (Rongomatane) reigns and it is in this atmosphere and under this belief that people are required to interact with one another.

The Meeting house traditionally faces east, to see the first rays of the sun as each day dawns. Likewise, during a tangihanga (funeral) the body lies in state, within the bosom of the ancestor, or under the protection of the ancestor to witness the fullness of last days on earth.

Other buildings and structures.
Many marae have a graveside (urupa) nearby acknowledging the ancestors as a living dimension of life. An ancestor is commemorated within a building – respects are paid to those who have passed on to the hono-i-wairua (gathering place of spirits) within a whaikorero (formal speech making) reflecting the belief in the merging of life and death that is significant and meaningful for Māori. People living (te hunga ora) are the result of a combination of the dead (te hunga mate) and the living (te hunga ora). References to these concepts are very frequent in whaikorero.

On some marae, memorials to a significant ancestor or people who died in the second world war are found to the side of the marae or whare nui and in some cases a flag pole stands majestically at the side of the meeting house.

Last, but not least, the ablution block and toilets are placed significantly to the rear of the whare nui and the whare kai

Compare the Kawa of two Marae
These rules are intended as a guide only as each district, and each Marae has its own rules. These rules are based on classical Māori. If you know these ‘classical rules,’  the chances of you offending people are less than if you only know the modern rules.

  • The area immediately in front of the meeting house is to be kept clear at all times.
  • Shoes are left in the porch area, although on some occasions and on some Marae even this is overlooked or not expected.
  • Many Marae forbid women to address any gathering in the Whare Hui, but it should be noted that this rule is specific to particular Marae and not the majority.
  • Alcohol is not permitted on or near the marae. Some marae apply this rule to all functions, including weddings etc. Others again are open to a request for permission to provide alcohol at social events.
  • Tikanga usually dictates that the right-hand side of the meeting house (the ancestors right hand) is to be occupied by the tangata whenua, while the manuhiri occupy the left-hand side including the rear and then positions left vacant by the tangata whenua. This allows the speaker to address face to face, his audience.
  • The Whare Kai. As the name implies, this is the eating house, the place where the “inner being” is satisfied. The whare kai is a separate building, not necessarily as a physical reality but in some cases as a concept or belief.
  • The concept of tapu prescribes where food is eaten, where it cannot be eaten, and also where drinks can and cannot be drunk. To the Māori, food is a common element (noa) and the opposite of tapu. Whereas the whare tupuna (meeting house) is tapu (sacrosanct) and food cannot therefore be eaten there, the whare kai is free from tapu – the two are at opposite ends of a continuum.
Although traditional marae kawa is different for Moriori than it is for many Māori Marae, the members of Hokotehi voted to follow generic contemporary Māori Kawa on their marae. There are still variations however and the main difference with Kōpinga is the entrance to the Whare Hui and the shape of it.

  • Traditionally, the area immediately in front of a meeting house is to be kept clear at all times. At Kōpinga, Manuwiri are encouraged to enter the covered in area at the front of the marae and gather in front of the wooden doors to be welcomed. Shoes are to be removed in this area and shoe storage is provided at both sides of this porch area.
  • Manuwiri and Tchakat Henu alike, are able to bring along and wear “inside shoes” such as slippers.
  • Traditional tikanga dictates that the right-hand side of the meeting house (the ancestors right hand) is to be occupied by the Tangata Whenua, while the Manuhiri occupy the left-hand side including the rear and then positions left vacant by the tangata whenua. At Kōpinga there is no right hand side and Manuwiri and Tchakat Henu are able and encouraged to share the Whare Hui equally.
  • The belief in peace runs through all Moriori Kawa. However, even at Kōpinga, some issues can arise that are contentious and whilst anger may surface, there are still rules and beliefs that moderate those feelings.
  • In some extremely formal situations the Tchakat Henu may establish a specific seating arrangement within the Marae, but this is usually more purposeful than traditional.
  • Traditionally women are not able to speak on Marae. At Kōpinga, not only do the values of Peace flow through the Kawa, so do the values of equality and acceptance. Moriori recognise women on the Marae as being equal and therefore able to represent themselves and others in all discussions and Marae politics.
  • Traditionally orators on a Marae speak from where they stand. At Kōpinga, the speaker orates from the Pou. There is a wooden floor around the central Pou and this is where the speaker can talk and walk, in the presence of this sacred Moriori taonga. And they can speak to all of the assembly.