He has chiseled cheekbones, a cheeky smile, brown eyes, tanned skin and a taiaha that never leaves his side.
He starts his days by going to the beach at dawn and greeting his ancestors, and the ‘creator’ through karakia (prayer).
Tauranga’s Ellis Bryers. Photo by Tracy Hardy.
Ellis Bryers is Maori – he’s proud to be. It’s his culture, and it’s ours.
Whether we, as New Zealanders, choose to adapt to the Maori culture or not, it’s part of us in one way or another.
The emotional and powerful haka before an All Blacks’ game, greenstone necklaces and singing the national anthem in te reo. We’re already using components of Te Ao Maori (the Maori world) to celebrate our culture.
But Ellis wishes to bring more depth to people’s understanding of what those Maori components are. What is the meaning behind the haka? Why do we need to have greenstones blessed before we wear them? And how do we pronounce Maori words?
The Nga Puhi descendant has a vision of a nation where Maori cultural practices are understood and utilised daily by both Maori and non-Maori in a way that unifies our nation and builds our identity.
“A nation where ‘kia ora’ or ‘tena koe’ and a hongi (traditional Maori greeting) between friends becomes commonplace, where everyone knows their personal pepha (Maori introduction), can do a basic whaikorero (formal speech) and what a Marae powhiri (ritual ceremony of encounter) process involves, to name a few,” says Ellis.
He hopes to educate both Maori and non-Maori to adapt and use practices by teaching New Zealanders to take the time and effort to learn about Te Ao Maori, and by Maori supporting them in this journey of learning.
“The rest of the world looks at how we celebrate and utilise Te Ao Maori, and are in awe of us. It’s important all New Zealanders know our own history,” says Ellis.
“By knowing about the protocols and processes of Te Ao Maori we will avoid misunderstandings that have hindered the relationship between Maori and non-Maori in the past.”
Not knowing protocols and feeling like they don’t have permission to learn is what Ellis believes is holding people back from learning about the culture.
Ellis educates people about Maori cultural practices through his business Mihi Engagement, which includes Maori creation theology, understanding powhiri processes and building pepeha.
“This enables non-Maori business’s that have Maori clients to engage with them in a respectful and communicative way,” says Ellis, will be speaking about our cultural identity and how we celebrate that in the future at TEDxTauranga this weekend.