Being so far from family and friends, makes you appreciate them all the more. As I learn more about Maori culture I’ve started to think about some of the concepts of family.
Whanau is the concept of family – its more than just your immediate family but the extended family where people may also be linked by a common ancestor. It is very common for whanau to return to their Marae where they sleep with their ancestors and gain strength from being together.
But, the concept of whanau is also used to describe small communities – these could be clubs, or just friends. In the modern world when families are spread all over the world it’s friends that become the extended “family”.
Thinking about this reminds me of how my husband’s maternal whanau come together in his auntie’s conservatory and whilst it’s more of a modern 1980’s structure than an ornate Marae and we haven’t yet all slept in there, it’s fair to say that there has been plenty of family bonding. I am not sure that Uncle Jeff’s jokes and quizzes have quite the cache of the ancestral stories but they seem to hit the spot after a few glasses of wine.
As for my family there are a dwindling number and I’ve started to think I should get to know more of my geneology. For Maori this is their whakapapa – where oral history recalls the ancestors and how they will have arrived by canoe to the land of the long white cloud.
It’s too early for us to have developed our New Zealand whanau but its a comforting to think of the Bulkington style of Marae and know that regardless of location we’ll always have a whanau wherever we are.