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Legitimacy at the heart of Christchurch’s newest Māori culture experience

11 February 2019

From the moment the warriors peer over the fence at the gathered group of visitors, taiaha raised, the whites of their eyes piercing through the foliage, it becomes obvious this is the real deal.

He Tāngata, a new Māori cultural experience in Christchurch, opened in December at Ngā Hau e Whā, New Zealand’s only official national marae in Wainoni, Christchurch.

It is their legitimacy and personal touch that makes He Tāngata stand out.

“We want to showcase Māori culture to the world, from here in Ōtautahi Christchurch,” said Nikki Tipene, He Tāngata general manager.

“We saw a gap in the market for a genuine and authentic experience like this, and it’s so exciting to be able to share our traditions and customs.”

He Tāngata’s point of difference, Tipene said, was being based at Ngā Hau e Whā, New Zealand’s only official national marae. All iwi were represented at the Pages Rd complex.

“This is a living, operating marae, it hasn’t just popped up for tourism.”

Tipene said it was a privilege to operate from within the marae, a place up until now relatively closed off to the public.

“Ngā Hau e Whā is a formal meeting place, a place of respect, and we are hugely privileged to be given permission and authority to represent and showcase this place to others,” she said.

The experience includes a formal welcome, a stage performance detailing the history of Māori and their first interactions with European explorers, a hangi-style meal, and a showcase of traditional kapa haka.

“We are all about creating a personal experience for people, so we ensure there is a lot of interaction. The performers chat to you, you can take photos, so we break down that barrier.”

He Tāngata employed a full-time cultural manager, providing daily advice on how to improve the experience.

“By having a cultural manager, we can give people a genuine experience, and also ensure we don’t offend anyone with the cultural showcase we are offering.”

He Tāngata runs a range of daily tours starting at 11.15am and 5pm. Check their website for more details.