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Te Manawa Wera a Te Whenuanui

25 February 2014
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Manawa wera are chants or songs performed on the return of defeated war parties.

I hoki mai koe, e Te Whenuanui ki te aha.

Te mate atu ai te unuhanga o te puhi o Mataatua…

This is one such Manawa Wera performed by the pouaru of the men who were slain at Ōrākau.  Upon their return to Ruatāhuna they received a hostile welcome.  The chant or song asks why had Te Whenuanui returned at all, better he had died with his daughter, the high-born chiefly women of Mataatua than this.  This Manawa Wera was composed for Te Whenuanui who led the Tūhoe contingent to the battle of Ōrākau.

Manawa wera are highly passionate and emotive chants performed by both women and men.  They can be accompanied by the most extraordinary contortions and distorting of the eyes until scarcely any part of the pupil can been seen, pukana.  

In early times when a defeated war party returned the widows and relatives of the slain would assemble opposite the war party and the wailing for the dead would commence.  The women would be dressed in the oldest and most ragged garments.  The Manawa Wera could be heard across the Marae ātea.  The Manawa Wera is an exhibition of contempt.  The manawa wera is also known as the whakatea, literally “seared heart”.

Do you know other Manawa Wera?



Binney, Judith Encircled Lands

Best, Elsdonl Tūhoe Children of the Mist

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