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  • Writer's pictureMark Revington

Whānau Matters

I got a great reminder of whānau a while back when my father-in-law, who is the eldest of three, welcomed his two younger brothers to Aotearoa.


The writer's father-in-law and his brothers hug at a recent family gathering.
The bros

We rented an Airbnb on the fringe of Epsom, got a friend in to cook amazing food, played loud music, and had a great time. Just familia as they would say (they were born in Cuba and were brought up speaking Spanish although one lives in Aotearoa these days and the other two in the United States) – the brothers, a couple of husbands, my father-in-law’s daughters and offspring. No drama, no hidden agendas, but then this is a close family or whānau. They always stayed close as the offspring grew up, and they have ensured that it stays that way


 On my side, I am the pōtiki of four brothers and we are pretty close, as are our families. We all tend to meet up at Ōhope Beach every summer.


The concept of whānau is pretty strong in te ao Māori and it can mean immediate family or extended family, as in multiple aunties and uncles. But it seems to be strong in indigenous people around the world.


Whānau literally translates into the English word ‘family’ but of course it is a bit more complex because in te ao Māori whānau are connected through whakapapa. As Karaitiana Taiuru (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rārua), points out, hapū and iwi are also called whānau by a person who is a member of the same hapū or iwi.

“In modern day society, whānau can also be described as a group of people who are not related, but who are bound together to fulfil a common purpose, share a common cause or interest.”


Te Aka Māori Dictionary defines whānau as “extended family, family group, a familiar term of address. In the modern context the term is sometimes used to include friends who may not have any kinship ties to other members”. That sounds about right to me. NAIA is a perfect example of that, whether it's the kaimahi or the tamariki around the place.


At our dinner the other night there was clearly a whānau bond going on. It was magic to be a part of, and it was especially heart-warming to watch the brothers.


Nā Mark Revington

 

 

 

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