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  • Writer's pictureMark Revington

Pepeha

My pepeha these days is simple: Tēnā koutou, ko Mark Revington au, nō Ōhope au, tēnā koutou katoa.

I don’t have a maunga, awa or marae but I was brought up at a beach and it’s the closest thing I have to a tūrangawaewae. Even my son thinks Ōhope is his place although he has never lived there. He has been there often enough and I guess he has connections there.


A picture of Ōhope Beach, where Mark Revington grew up and still feels strong connections to.

Ōhope is definitely special to me. I grew up there, learnt to surf there, swam there, fished there and spent my early years there. It has changed a lot but I still feel defined by it. It is part of who I am.

When I worked for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu I had a flash pepeha which talked about the shelter of Ngāi Tahu but I don’t use it these days and I certainly won’t use someone else’s tīpuna.


‘Pepeha’ is a song by Six60. Long before that it was (and is) a way of introducing yourself by sharing connections with the people and places that are important to you. Actually, it is telling your audience about your connections. Typically, it will reference whakapapa connections through maunga, awa, waka, iwi, hapū, marae and other ties. These days, sharing pepeha is becoming an essential part of professional life.


You might grow up knowing who you are and where you are from and be more than comfortable sharing that with others. And of course it is important to say hello, who you are and how you do or don’t fit in.

These days, if you don’t know, you can go straight to a website and create your own pepeha. Of course. I say that because it is so obvious in a digital age.


There’s even a book about pepeha. Actually, it’s about tikanga but author Keri Opai thinks it is OK for non-Māori to use a pepeha as long as it is structured differently. The first print run of his book, Tikanga: An introduction to te ao Māori sold out in three weeks.


In an excerpt for E-Tangata, Opai reckons the template of maunga, awa, waka, iwi, hapū, marae and the rest stems from the water cycle. “As indigenous people we are part and parcel of the environment, especially the water cycle. The maunga catches and holds the snow, sleet, hail and rain which eventually forms rivers and lakes, the water of which nourishes the people, and which inevitably evaporates and returns to the sky and the cycle begins again. The pepeha is indigenous code, Māori people are part of the natural environment and water cycle.”


He says the book wasn’t his idea. “Tikanga is, simply and broadly speaking, a Māori way of doing things. It’s the customary system of practices and values that are expressed in every social context. Based on the root word “tika”, to be right, correct. It sets out what the appropriate thing to do is in the circumstances. It is the constant, yet flexible, gravity of the Māori universe.


“I saw it (the book) as a challenge because I’d never written anything like that in English before. And I also knew from my years teaching just how deep the need was.” 


Most people mistakenly think a pepeha is about an introduction, says Opai, when it is actually to make connections. Don’t say “that’s my mountain, that’s my river,” unless affiliated to that hapū.


I don’t affiliate to a maunga or an awa. But Ōhope? That’s a different story.


Nā Mark Revington

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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