Story: Māori feasts and ceremonial eating – hākari

Page 4. 20th- and 21st-century changes

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Traditionally, a hākari (feast) could be the sole reason for a hui. In the 2000s feasts were held at the end of a hui, but were not the only reason for the gathering. Large hui attended by thousands, including political or religious events, continued to take place.

Kawiti hākari, 1945

While feasts changed in the 20th century, they could still be significant. A whānau unveiling in Kawiti, Northland, in 1945 saw 500 people arrive. A list of food included two beef cattle, four pigs, four sheep, 50 chickens, eight sacks of pipi (shellfish), six sacks of potatoes, 10 sacks of kūmara (sweet potatoes), 1,000 tuna (eels), 100 bottles of preserves of some sort, five sacks of apples and four sacks of cabbages. The food that was not eaten was distributed amongst the guests.


Mana (prestige) remained an important part of hospitality. Mana of the manuhiri (visitors) is demonstrated at the start of the hākari. Respected guests and kaumātua are called first and are seated in places of honour. How well the visitors are fed is the measure of hospitality, with guests often asked afterwards, ‘How was the food?’

Kārangaranga putiputi (flower ceremony)

In Northland, a tradition has developed which acknowledges the attendance of different iwi and hapū at a marriage. At the cutting of the wedding cake the master of ceremonies calls out the name of a hapū, or sometimes an iwi, if visitors are attending from a distance. ‘E karanga ana kia Ngāti ____, kia haere mai, ki tā koutou putiputi.’ (I call on Ngāti ____ to come and collect your flower).

A representative will come forward to take the cake and is then expected to perform a haka or waiata.

Marae dining halls

A late-20th-century description of a hākari at a marae reflects a common pattern for hākari inside the wharenui or dining hall.

When the dining-hall is prepared for a feast, it is a tremendous sight. Streamers hang from the roof, the tables are laden with trifles, sweets and jellies; mounds of apples and oranges stand between plates of seafood and great round home-baked loaves; and by each setting stands a bright coloured bottle of ‘fizz’. The local ladies put great effort into arranging the tables so that they look hospitable and plentiful. All sorts of rare delicacies are collected, and there are special signs of thought, like apples bristling with cigarettes on toothpicks, or piles of toffees for the children. Waitresses walk to and fro from the serveries with steaming plates of vegetables and meat, and schoolchildren serve cups of tea from large enamel teapots.1

Hākari in the 2000s

Hākari of the 2000s were very similar to those of the 20th century. Many marae had close interactions with local Māori health groups, which typically promoted a healthy-eating and smokefree message. Marae were more likely to be smokefree and many had changed their menus to include healthier foods. Some marae replaced the traditional boil-up with leaner meats, and salads were made available.

  1. Anne Salmond, Hui: a study of Māori ceremonial gatherings. Wellington: A. H. and A. W. Reed, 1975, p. 53. Back
How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Māori feasts and ceremonial eating – hākari - 20th- and 21st-century changes', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 1 February 2023)

Story by Basil Keane, published 5 Sep 2013