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Maori proverbs

Updated on October 17, 2016

The Maori of New Zealand

Maori are the native inhabitants of New Zealand. Since I started living in New Zealand in 2005, I have learned a lot about their culture, their beliefs, their history and their traditions. In this lens, I would like to share some of the Maori proverbs with you. (Update: I currently live in the UK and do not know when or whether I will return to NZ) I will give you the Maori version as well as the translation. I hope you enjoy the proverbs and the wisdom that is hiding within them.

The photo you can see here is the second Maori style tattoo I received. The first one is on my leg and represents my journey. The one on my arms talks about my connection to the Whanganui River.

Whanganui River
Whanganui River

What we say

Where I live, Maori and also other people who love our river say this:

E rere kau mai te awa nui,

mai Te Kahui Maunga ki Tangaroa.

Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au.

The great river flows from the

mountains to the sea.

I am the river. The river is me.

Maori proverbs = Whakatauki

Maori proverbs are also called Whakatauki and they play quite an important role in Maori culture. If you ever go to a meeting with Maori, you will be expected to know one or the other Whakatauki. You will use it at the end or during your introductory speech. If you study te reo Maori (the Maori language), you will learn quite many Whakatauki and they are a fun way to remember vocabulary and grammatical structures (even though you need to be careful with that as many of the Whakatauki are quite formally structured).

New Zealand

Have you ever been to New Zealand

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Toi tu he whenua, whatungarongaro he tangata.

Land is permanent, man disappears.

Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa

Let us keep close together, not far apart.

Kaua e rangiruatia te haa o te hoe; e kore too tatou waka e u ki uta

Do not lift the paddle out of unison or our canoe will never reach the shore.

He iti wai kowhao waka e tahuri te waka

It may only be a small storm yet a successful outcome is imminent.

He iti wai kowhao waka e tahuri te waka

A little water seeping through a lashing hole may swamp a canoe

Ka mate kainga tahi, ka ora kainga rua

One dwelling place is overcome but the second is secure. This means: There is more than one way to achieve an objective.

Some more

Whaia te iti kahuranga ki te tuahu koe me he maunga teitei

Search for great things, if one has to bow, let it be to a lofty mountain.

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people! It is people!

Tangata takahi manuhiri, he marae puehu

A person who mistreats his guest has a dusty Marae (=meeting house grounds)

Tangata ako ana i te whare, te turanga ki te marae, tau ana

A person who is taught at home, will stand collected on the Marae.

Tama tu tama ora, tama noho tama mate

An active person will remain healthy while a lazy one will become sick

Kaore te kumara e whaakii ana tana reka

The kumara (sweet potatoe) does not say how sweet he is

Your comments

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    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      thanks for sharing these meaningful proverbs. i love it.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Thanks for letting me see these Maori proverbs


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