The beautiful poetry of the Maori/Polynesian Star Compass - Atea a Rangi

What is a pepeha in Maori culture? How can I write one?

In Maori culture, people come to know you through where you are from, not what you have achieved in life. The first question a pakeha asks when they meet you is ‘what do you do?’, the first question a Maori asks is ‘Where are you from?’.

A pepeha is a form of introduction that establishes identity and heritage. In formal settings such as when you are being welcomed onto the marae, the pepeha forms part of your story told in reference to the bigger story that spans across time and generations starts a long time before you were born.

When you construct your own pepeha, you can include places that you have a strong love and connection with (this may not necessarily be the place of your birth).

What is a pepeha in Maori culture? How can I write one?

Your pepeha should also introduce you in reference to your tribe, canoe, whakapapa (genealogy) and marae (sacred meeting place). Non-Maoris can identify places that are significant to them and the country they are from as well.

Here is an infographic I created which should give you a better idea of the break down of the wording. Also here’s a video which should also help you and you can find out more at this excellent resource.

3 Comments

  1. jeremyjameshongkong

    Very cool.. Trying to think of my river.. . A much better question than ‘what do you do as well… Where are you from? Much more interesting especially when you consider most people don’t like what they do

    1. Content Catnip

      I know! I love the idea of turangawaewae a place to stand, it means a place that feels like home. My whanau is Ngati Porou on my dad’s side and Nga Puhi on my mum’s side. I came late to my own culture having lived in Australia most of my life. For me the river amd mountains I feel most connected to would probably be somewhere in Scotland, I feel really connected to the Isle of Skye, have spent a lot of time there…your belonging could be anywhere.

      1. jeremyjameshongkong

        Now that’s great if it’s necessarily where you were born. Though as a kid we had holidays around the clutha river so I’d go for that one I think. Dunedin Rivers are more streams

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