A Marae is first of all a sacred place among the Maori. Its literal meaning is "cleared area," and refers to a rectangular piece of ground cleared for special uses. But a marae is also a meeting place and a place for ceremony and cultural experience.


Traditionally, arriving strangers at the marae are challenged by Maori warriors ready to defend the sacred place, and, of course, the tribe. Here, the leading warrior comes forward with menacing gestures and looks in order to test the visitors and, if necessary, intimidate them.


Following the challenge, the people greet each other. This involves a face-to-face, nose-to-nose encounter. Diane, together with Lana Valenta and Laura Allen, greet the warriors and the others who call this marae home.


There is usually a great house at the marae. The carvings outside and inside the building are intricate and tell the story of the tribe. The interior is sacred, and visitors must remove their shoes before entering. Photos are not allowed inside. The genealogy of the tribe, so important in Maori culture, is recorded inside the great house.


Following the greeting, which involves speeches and time in the great house, the community gathers in another building for song and dance, and for sharing food. Here the men and women are singing various songs.


Following several performances of song and dance, the visitors were invited to take part. Diane is here engaged in a dance that features a sort of pom-pom.

The visit to the marae was a wonderful experience and taught us much about Maori culture.