Story: Māori humor - te whakakata

Humour at tangi

Humour at tangi

Poet Hone Tuwhare (standing, centre) conformed to Māori tradition at the funeral of his old friend and fellow poet James K. Baxter in 1972. Standing at the edge of the grave, Tuwhare farewelled his friend not only with a solemn poroporoaki (spoken farewell) but also with hilarious reminiscences and affectionate insults. This is a longstanding custom in Māori society and reflects honour on the person so addressed. It also serves to lighten the mood of the bereaved family and other mourners, and makes a tangi more distinctive and memorable.

Using this item

Suite Gallery
Photograph by Ans Westra

This item has been provided for private study purposes (such as school projects, family and local history research) and any published reproduction (print or electronic) may infringe copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user of any material to obtain clearance from the copyright holder.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Mark Derby, 'Māori humor - te whakakata - Traditional forms of humour', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 August 2022)

Story by Mark Derby, published 5 Sep 2013