Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sharples shifts the paepae

Pita Sharples is turning into a very interesting political performer. While I rate highly his intellect and experience across a number of fields, it may be too early to judge his political acumen.

But his questioning of the exclusion of women from the speaking order in welcoming ceremonies, especially in state sector powhiri, shows he is capable of throwing up useful solutions which balance respect for culture with modern needs, more so than the petty martinets who make powhiri such a fraught and unproductive occasion so often.

While in an earlier post I called Sharples a cultural conservative, that does not mean he is a reactionary. As someone well versed in cultural forms, he is perhaps best placed to point out the places where there can be change and innovation. After all, he has nothing to prove to anyone any more on a cultural level.

"I believe it is time now for women to assume the talking roles as well as men. The reasons for women not speaking may have gone and need not be enforced," said Sharples.

Maybe he should have come out and supported Mira Szaszy when she made the same call 20 years ago, but his reasons now are interesting. He hears too many speeches by men with poor Maori, who don't know their local history or even the significance of the event taking place. He sees Pakeha speaking on the marae in English, while at the same time "I look at elderly women who might have the mana of age and knowledge and I see them with good reo Maori and a good knowledge of the local history and that they are au fait with the event that is taking place. And I think, well, why aren't they speaking as opposed to Pakeha who don't know anything?"

As for women being made to sit "in the back", Sharples suggested the traditional solution, still in use at Hoani Waititi Marae, could be applied more widely - that the "paepae tapu", where the orators sit, is slightly separate from the bulk of the party. This can allow women and other non-speaking dignatories to sit in prominent positions without compromising tikanga.


Blogger Hippynz said...

To speak or not to speak English on the paepae should be up to the Tangata Whenua or group and the desision on the type of hosts they wish to be. I feel that if the 'important' person (of the manuhiri) can only speak in english they should look at weather it might be better for the mana of the group to pass the speaking task to someone else so that it is done in Maori.

3:17 PM  

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