Tradition, invention, and innovation : multiple reflections of an urban marae : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Social Anthropology at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand
Marae have a place in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand that is vital to Maori culture, as well as for all peoples of this land. Maori cultural precepts intrinsically abound with notions of the importance of marae for the transmission of that culture. Marae are places of refuge and learning where the active expression of Maori culture is most obvious. Tendrils of tradition incorporated with contemporary nuances reach out to enfold those whom these places and spaces nurture and embrace. While these ideals may not always find articulation in reality, their presence at the least provides a foundation centuries old on which to build pathways in the present and into the future.
Awataha Marae is an urban marae based on Auckland?s North Shore. The history of Awataha is situated within the latest of three Renaissance Periods in which there was an upsurge in Maori culture. These Renaissance Periods were about resistance to the impositions of another culture, reclamation of part of what had been lost through colonisation, and rejuvenation of people and culture. Renaissance Period Three, in which Awataha arose, also has connections to the efforts of indigenous peoples worldwide in their endeavours to forge self determining processes for themselves, including those of conducting research that was for their benefit and purposes, rather than for those of others.
Following the development of marae from pre-contact to the present day also illuminates the context within which Awataha was formed. From its beginnings as the space in front of the chief?s house where the village members gathered and where relationships were negotiated, marae today are complexes of buildings that reflect the necessities of the society that surrounds them, as well as the desire of the people to retain Maori culture in its most fundamental form. Urban marae have arisen to fulfil those desires for Maori in urban contexts, often separated from their rural homelands and for many, from their cultural heritage. Following changes in the ways in which wharenui were decorated and embellished also provides evidence of the ways in which Maori consciously innovated culture in order to endure in the new world.