In a couple of places, I’ve said that women are banned from speaking on some marae. I was wrong. I’m sorry for having said this.
In a comment on my previous post, He Uri o Nanakia very gently pointed out that I was wrong, and took the time to explain some of the customs around who speaks when and where on marae. I’m very sorry to have been saying something that is wrong, and sorry that I didn’t take the time to get it right before leaping into print.
I’ve copied the comment here.
Under Māori tikanga, women are not banned from speaking on the marae.
Exactly what you mean when you say marae is possibly an issue here but I will take it that you mean the wharenui (‘meeting house’) itself or the marae ātea (the area in front of the wharenui where the whai kōrero happens in most areas). The term marae can and often does refer to the whole complex but I’m assuming that you don’t think that women are banned from speaking at all, anywhere on the marae complex.
On most (but by no means all) marae, women do not perform the whai kōrero (formal speeches) within the ceremony of the pōwhiri (ritual welcome). During a pōwhiri the whai kōrero is done either on the marae ātea or inside the wharenui. When there is no pōwhiri in progress, there is no restriction on who may speak on the marae in these areas. (That is to say, no default restriction, depending on what is happening there may be restrictions on who may speak based on a range of issues such as, specific expertise or professional role.)
Within the ceremony of the pōwhiri the role that is performed almost exclusively by women is the karanga. This is the call between the tangata whenua (hosts) and the manuhiri (guests). If there is no body who can perform the karanga the pōwhiri cannot go ahead. It is a crucial element of the ritual. In modern times the karanga is usually quite short but it is entirely possible for the karanga to be as long and have as much linguistic content as the whai kōrero. In addition to the karanga, women may interject to show support or disagreement during the whai kōrero of their speaker. They may also cut the speaker off entirely if they wish make a strong statement that they do not support the speech.
The way these customs are practiced varies from marae to marae.
Whether of not the customs of the pōwhiri are discriminatory or sexist is a complicated discussion and as you say, one to be had within Māoridom, not ‘about’ Māoridom.
However, stating that women are prohibited from speaking on the marare is incorrect and I speculate that this statement is likely to have offended and disappointed some people. Misconceptions like this one can make it difficult for some Māori women to engage with what as seen as the Pākehā feminist dialogue.
Thank you, He Uri o Nanakia, for your comment, and for the time you took to explain the matter to me.
Me te mihi nui