'It's something to revive, the tikanga of Pai Mārire'

From Te Ahi Kaa, 6:06 pm on 7 May 2017
Jesse Huriwai at Hongoeka Marae, Plimmerton, Wellington.

Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

In the final part of the Te Ahi Kaa series about religion in Aotearoa, Kōhanga Reo teacher Jesse Huriwai talks about the Māori Christian faith Pai Mārire, also known as Hauhau.

Pai Mārire, which is based on 'goodness and peace', was founded by the Māori prophet Te Ua Haumene in 1862.

Jesse Huriwai grew up between Porirua and his marae at Maungatautari.

As a child, he says he'd often sit inside the wharenui and listen to the discussion and karakia (prayers) of his elders rather than play outside.

Now in his twenties, Jesse is one of the kaitiaki and sometimes a speaker at Horouta Marae in Porirua.

He is regularly called upon to conduct the karakia during hui, tangihanga and other Māori events.

“We were young and when it was time for church the bell would ring so we would go in for karakia. For me now that I’m older, I would rather go to church. My cousins are more into the kapahaka side of things. That passion for Pai Mārire... It's becoming more comfortable [for me] to have that responsibility”

Succession planning is not typical in Pai Mārire, but Jesse recalls being singled out to carry on the teachings and karakia when his grand uncle was sick in hospital.

His religious background is similar to many Māori families in which two religions are brought together through marriage.  His paternal grandmother was Pai Mārire and his paternal grandfather was Anglican.

Jesse was baptised at Roto Waitoa in the Anglican (Mihingare) faith, but because of the influence of this elders, he took a natural leaning towards Pai Mārire.

Te Ua Haumene in the early 1860s

 The Māori prophet Te Ua Haumene, founder of Pai Mārire, in the early 1860s Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library, Reference: PA2-2533

He says he doesn’t see it as a religion, more of a philosophy.

“Pai Mārire to me is the taha wairua (spiritual side). You can feel the presence of the elders like you're still connected to the past.”

Unlike many other religions, there is no formal dress worn when conducting services.

“The Tariao, or the person who conduct the karakia, he was just your ordinary kaumatua. Most of the times they just wore suits and our nannies were still in their blacks.”

For the last few years, Jesse has made more regular trips home to the Waikato.

His two marae in Maungatatari formed the kapahaka group Te Akatarere and as part of their initial learning, members carried out owhaowha (or ohaoha) which is a formal service of offering.

“I think it has grown. Waikato-Tainui, they released a resource book which encompasses all the kōrero and the background history of the karakia. So there's a regeneration. As they say, one net is cast aside and a new one comes in”

In an archival segment from 1978, Haare Williams gives the historical background of the Ringatū faith, including excepts from a lecture by Wi Tarei, a Ringatū tohunga (expert practitioner).