Te Whare Tapere: Towards a New Model for Māori Performance Art

Te Whare Tapere: Towards a New Model for Māori Performance Art

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'It is a long time since I have read such an impressive doctoral thesis as that by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal...this is a thesis which goes beyond that high quality and judgment naturally expected of any good doctoral thesis. This one is also informed by a deep spiritual quality which imparts an unusual authority to its quest for a form of Te Whare Tapere as an expression distinctive to Māori.'
Doctoral Examiner's Report
Professor Don McKenzie, University of Oxford, United Kingdom


In 1998, I completed doctoral studies on the ‘whare tapere’ - traditional iwi/community based ‘houses’ of storytelling, dance, music, games, puppetry and other entertainments. Unfortunately, whare tapere fell into disuse in the 19th century and were eventually replaced by the modern Māori concert party which came to its first form in the period 1890-1920.

My doctoral research looked at two questions – what do we know of the historical whare tapere? Can we create a whare tapere today? The dissertation answers these questions by bringing together a large amount of material about the traditional Te Ao Mārama worldview and the whare tapere as an institution of pre-European Māori society. Information and knowledge on these topics were found in extensive Māori language manuscript collections particularly in the Alexander Turnbull Library and the Auckland City Library. Other sources of information included whaler and missionary diaries as well as the collections of ethnologists such as Elsdon Best, John White and Edward Tregear.

Part One concerns the Te Ao Mārama worldview which is reflected in tribal creation traditions and is expressed through the behaviour and customs of our traditional culture. This section contains an extensive discussion of creation stories and considered various tribal versions. It also shows how these ideas on the nature of the world are expressed in tangible culture such as the design of meeting houses.

Part Two of the dissertation brings together fragments of information and knowledge about the historical whare tapere. It commences with the story of the enmity between Tinirau and Kae. The founding myth of the whare tapere, the story centres upon a troupe of women – the deities of the whare tapere – whose whare tapere performances were convened to entrap and imprison Kae for his misdemeanours.

Part Three presents some ideas about the modern whare tapere. It foresees the retelling of the Tinirau and Kae story as well as the story of my namesake, Hūkiki Te Ahukaramū of Ngāti Raukawa. This section provides a summary of the elements of the whare tapere including puppetry, perfumes as bodily adornments as well as songs, storytelling, dance and games.

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'Te Whare Tapere: Towards a New Model for Māori Performance Art'
by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal
An unpublished doctoral dissertation, Victoria University of Wellington 1998

Doctoral Studies supervised by Prof Phil Mann, Department of Theatre and Film, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Advisory Committee members: Prof Tīmoti Kāretu, Dr Mīria Simpson, Prof Whatarangi Winiata
New Zealand Examiner: Prof Wharehuia Milroy, Waikato University
International Examiner: Prof Don McKenzie, Oxford University, Oxford, England

Digital Download, PDF, 16MB
300 A4 pages
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 (c) C Royal 1998. All rights reserved.

Except for the quoting for research purposes, not part or whole maybe reproduced in any form without permission.