Through their Netflix series The Casketeers, Francis and Kaiora Tipene have shared the unique way in which Māori honour their dearly departed and have provided a window into some of the most intimate moments as families grieve. Now, these reality TV stars want to share their life story through a new book, Life as a Casketeer.
“Death and caring for our dearly departed can be a daunting experience for some but I encourage those who are interested in learning about this industry,” Kaiora Tipene says.
Francis Tipene adds, “This book talks about all the factions in the world of mourning the deceased, my compassion for them and a few of my personal experiences.”
The real-life casketeers are sharing their most intimate moments, from their upbringing, their personal love story, how they entered into the undertaking industry, through to the trials and tribulations of their work.
“Māori naturally have fierce compassion for their dead and sometimes it's hard to let them go," Francis says.
"I've seen so many families, extended families and tribes fight over the deceased. There have been times where I've had to step in to police an incident, be a spokesperson, lawyer, accountant and so much more.”
Their book also highlights how some of the more traditional practices of tangihanga have evolved.
“I've seen some families who have opted out of wearing black and chosen to wear a colour that celebrates their lost loved one. In some cases, the deceased liked pink so they wore pink. That's what's important, their love for the dead,” Kaiora says.
Besides the living, both Francis and Kaiora have a connection to the spiritual world.
“When working with the deceased it's important to operate with integrity and to honour them as if they were still with us,” Francis says.
“Sometimes I feel their spirit, often it's those who are in our care. Personally, I think they're trying to thank us,” Kaiora says.
So if you're looking to learn more, their book is now available at select book stores across the country.