Shoes sit in front of the door to the wharenui (meeting house). When visitors enter a wharenui they should remove their shoes and leave them at the door (though there are some wharenui in which shoes may be worn inside). One explanation for this is that the dust from the marae ātea (courtyard), which is the domain of Tūmatauenga, the god of war, should not be brought into the wharenui, the domain of Rongo, the god of peace. Another explanation is that the wharenui, also known as the whare tipuna (ancestral house), represents a tribal ancestor. The tekoteko (carved figure on the gable of the house) is the head, the maihi (barge boards) are the arms, the tāhuhu (ridgepole) is the backbone and the heke (rafters) are the ribs. Respect is shown for the tipuna (ancestor) by removing shoes.
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Photograph by Gil Hanly
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