Home' micenet eMag : micenet August 2018 Contents BUSINESS | NGAHIHI O TE RA BIDOIS
here are many aspects of the
Maori culture in New Zealand
which apply to the MICE
community worldwide. One of
those is Ahi Kaa. Ahi Kaa is what keeps our
Maori people linked to important places in
our lives and has been passed down through
generations of Maori ancestors.
Ahi Kaa (noun) means burning fires of
occupation, continuous occupation – title to
land through occupation by a group,
generally over a long period of time. The
group is able through the use of whakapapa
to trace back to primary ancestors who lived
on the land through their military strength
and defend successfully against challenges,
thereby keeping their fires going.
As a child I remember those home fires
burning in our old marae (Maori village)
wharekai (dining hall) located down beside
our tribal awahou river. Big pots containing all
kinds of Maori kai (food) such as watercress
and wild pork were hanging over the fires.
That food was to feed our guests who were
at our Marae for important occasions. The
fires not only generated heat to cook our
food but were also always warm and
comforting to us and our visitors.
We are about to open a brand-new dining
hall at our marae in a couple of weeks and
the dining hall before this one also had a fire.
That fire did not have pots of kai hanging
over it but was used to heat the hot water for
Lessons from Maori culture for the business events community.
AHI KAA – KEEPING
THE HOME FIRES
our kitchen and showers. It also warmed up the kitchen ensuring we were all kept comfy and
warm, especially on cold frosty mornings. The kai was cooked in steamers and more modern
commercial ovens; those steamers still cooking our age-old favourite kai.
However, the concept of Ahi Kaa is more than keeping fires going to ensure everyone is warm
and the kai is cooked for manuhiri (guests). Ahi Kaa is also about keeping the marae “warm”
through the presence of our people. It is about us maintaining a presence to support our place.
I lived away from my home town of Rotorua and my marae for 20 years. It was during my
time away that I learnt about the true meaning of Ahi Kaa and the importance of keeping
contact with my marae, whanau (family) and iwi (Maori tribe). I maintained contact by coming
home to “keep the home fires going”.
This usually meant doing various mahi (work) during important gatherings of our tribe. During
those latter years away, my wife and I would endure long trips home with our two kids in their
car seats in the back of the car continually asking, “Are we there yet?”
Maintaining Ahi Kaa came at a cost, but the benefits of being with whanau (family) and iwi
(tribe) made it all worthwhile. Building our brand new Wharekai has come at a cost too. During
the building period our marae was closed for most activities. We were unable to host our visitors
for important gatherings such as funerals and relied on neighbouring Maori tribes.
Our new wharekai (dining hall) will make it possible to host more people more efficiently and
improve our ability to look after our elders. The building truly is a thing of beauty, but the real
beauty can be seen in the people you will see returning home to the marae to keep the home
Unlike previous wharekai, there may not be an actual fire in the new dining room, but Ahi Kaa
was never just about the fire. So how do you practice Ahi Kaa in your MICE business? What
brings people back to you and your business and your people? How do you keep your people
fed and warm and what motivates them to endure long trips where their children may be asking
if they are nearly there yet? What home fires do people return to help you with?
Hopefully you and your people are keeping your winter home fires burning at your place too
so your people, visitors and “tribe” are always welcome at your place at any time, whether you
have a fire place or not.
Let’s keep our MICE home fires burning as we practice Ahi Kaa in our MICE world. m
Ngahihi o te ra Bidois is a multi-award winning international keynote speaker. See more of his story
on his website at www.ngahihibidois.com.
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