Live streaming of tangihanga?

By Tumamao Harawira

The live streaming of tangihanga and what protocols should be employed has been a topic of discussion for many years, with those discussions more widespread during the lockdown.

According to Mataia Keepa, filming or recording of tangihanga has been around for many, many years, from the time of Sir Apirana Ngata. But with the advent of social media and Zoom, the issue of preserving the rites and customs of tangihanga in a digital space is fraught with pitfalls.

"We should formulate tikanga that ensures tapu, that ensures noa, that ensures mauri, so spirit is still spirit, and so we are still Māori in this shifting world."

Lockdowns throughout the country have wreaked havoc for whānau dealing with death, with many whānau, particularly in Auckland, being denied access to funerals. Live streaming is a way to overcome those issues. Pierre Lyndon, of Te Taitokerau, says utilising new digital technology is for some the only way of maintaining a connection to home.

"There are many Māori who are living in other regions and Australia, allowing them to be a part of meetings and funerals back home."

So what is off-limits in terms of what can potentially be broadcast? Both Keepa and Lyndon are adamant on what is an absolute no-no.

"Sir James Henare said to me about funerals. Don't take pictures, don't film the body and the widow. They must remain sacred," Lyndon says, while Keepa says "The flesh of the body can be seen on any phone, anywhere in the world, on any computer anywhere in the world."

Haami Tohu, who runs Haven Falls Funeral Home in Whangārei, says much responsibility has been put on funeral homes. In lockdown level four, funeral directors fulfilled every role when dealing with tangihanga.

"It is left to fulfill all those roles, right until the cemetery, till the grave. It was left up to us to do the ceremony and prayers and put the body in the hole."

Tohu also asks, "How do we ensure customs and protocols in the digital world?"

Keepa says, barring the showing of the tūpāpaku, iwi are able to create their own protocols around tangihanga.

"Ko tātou ngā roro o te nāianei. Ko ngā roro o nanahi i whai wāhi rā rātou ki tetahi whakapātaritari i a rātou tikanga ka waihangahia mai ai he tikanga hōu. Nā kua toka tērā hei tikanga tawhito mō tō tāua reanga."

We are the brains of today. The brains of yesterday, when they were faced with challenges to their customs, they made new ones, and those customs are considered ancient to our generation.