Story: Ngā mahi tika

Burying the whenua, 1987

Burying the whenua, 1987

The Māori word 'whenua' means both land and placenta. By a longstanding custom, the placenta of a newborn child is buried on their tūrangawaewae (the territory to which they have ancestral rights), thus combining both meanings. This 1987 painting by Robyn Kahukiwa, 'Te whenua, te whenua, engari kāore he tūrangawaewae', comments on the suppression of this tradition by European-run maternity hospitals which, at one time, insisted on burning placentas. 

Using this item

Auckland Art Gallery – Toi o Tāmaki
Reference: 1988/32
Artwork by Robyn Kahukiwa

Permission of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Mark Derby, 'Ngā mahi tika - Tangi, birth and modern-day custom', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 28 September 2021)

Story by Mark Derby, published 5 Sep 2013