Moehewa: Death, lifestyle & sexuality in the Māori world

Linda Waimarie Nikora, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku


Customary death ritual and traditional practice have continued for the Māori (indigenous) people of Aotearoa/New Zealand, despite intensive missionary incursion and the colonial process. This paper critically considers what occurs when the deceased is different, in a most significant way. What happens when you die – and you are Māori and any one, or a combination, of the following: a queen, takatāpui,[1] butch, like that, gay, she-male, lesbian, transsexual, a dyke, intersex, tomboy, kamp, drag, homosexual, or just queer? Who remembers you and how? Same sex relationships today are still discouraged or denied, although traditional chant and Māori visual narratives record such liaisons and erotic experience as joyously normal (Te Awekotuku, 2005). And yet some people choose to remain in the closet. In this paper, we present three case studies, and invite the reader to reflect with us on mourning rituals or tangi – Māori death rites, in a same sex relationship, or for a gay, lesbian or transsexual family member. In this way, we open up a space for dialogue about such matters in our intimate and kin communities.

[1] We use the term takatāpui broadly to refer to people in relationships other than heterosexual (Te Rangikaheke, n.d; Te Awekotuku, 2001).

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