Maori welcome brings five cultures and football together

Published on : Monday, June 1, 2015

downloadFive cultures – representing past, present and future – met on Ōwae Marae, near New Plymouth, on Friday (29 May) as the region welcomed four international football teams with a traditional Māori powhiri.

Along with the welcoming party from the Māori community of Ōwae Marae – a place of deep cultural and historic significance to local Māori tribes – were the honoured guests, teams of FIFA U-20 footballers representing the future sporting hopes of Brazil, Nigeria, Hungary and Korea.

The powhiri challenge and ceremonial welcome on to the marae – the traditional tribal meeting ground – took place within sight of Mt Taranaki, the near-perfect solitary volcanic cone and sacred mountain of the Māori people of the Taranaki region.

The four visiting football teams took part in the ceremony by singing a song from their own homeland.

The vast Taranaki region, on the western North Island coastline, takes its name from Mt Taranaki. Māori of this region trace their origins back to eight tribes.

Ōwae Marae is the ancestral home of the Māori people of Waitara – a small town, where 40% of the population of 6,500 is Māori, and which lies 16km north-east of New Plymouth, the main city in the Taranaki region.

Māori first settled there hundreds of years ago, and the marae occupies an area that was once an ancient pa (fortified village). The carved wharenui or meeting house ‘Te Ika-roa-a-Māui’ was completed in 1936.

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd told the Taranaki Daily News: “We’re thrilled to have the teams here and we wanted them to really experience something special from Taranaki, and a powhiri was the best way to do this.”

“The exchange of cultural expression between our five nations was incredible.”

t was important to give the visiting footballers a traditional welcome and an experience that they would go away with and treasure, New Plymouth District Council event manager Melissa Devine-Collins said.

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