Like a number of fundamental Māori rituals and practices, pōwhiri have appeared in New Zealand fiction feature film since its beginnings in the silent era. Pōwhiri are multisensory, kinaesthetic experiences that, for most Māori, recall one’s tūrangawaewae—where he or she stands and belongs—because, in general, the predominant experience of pōwhiri is at home, amongst one’s own community. This article critically analyses pōwhiri as it has been constructed in New Zealand feature film history. It first presents an historical overview of pōwhiri and then focuses on Tearepa Kahi’s Mt.
In most areas, whaikōrero in pōwhiri has survived the test of time sheltered by the confines of marae, but the performance aspect of this art form has changed significantly. The impacts of Christianity, the influence of European culture and the movement of pōwhiri from outdoors to indoors have created a more subdued speaker, free of weaponry and limited body movement. In recent years there has been a renaissance among particular groups to revive past ways of performance.