Exclusive - Oprah Winfrey bonds with Māori at Ōrākei marae

By Rewi Heke

American megastar Oprah Winfrey is receiving a special Maori welcome in Auckland on her first visit to New Zealand.

A traditional powhiri is underway with the people of Ngati Whatua at Orakei Marae.

Winfrey arrived just after 4pm and met quietly with elders who placed a tribal korowai on her shoulders before being taken on to the marae.

She was escorted by Māori female leader, Naida Glavish, who translated and explained the ceremonial events.

Winfrey apparently made a specific request to meet with Maori and to formally acknowledge indigenous culture before undertaking any formal engagement in New Zealand.

Dressed in a royal blue pants suit and wearing the korowai cloak, she received the traditional chants and challenges and was taken into the main wharenui, meeting house.

Māori Television cameras were the only media allowed inside the wharenui and captured Winfrey singing along to the opening hymn of Whakaaria Mai, How Great Thou Art. 

Winfrey is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which is the highest rated programme of its kind in history and was syndicated worldwide from 1986 to 2011.

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