Raina Ferris was 17 years old when she was asked to karanga for a tangi at her local Rongomaraeroa Marae in Porangahau.
“I couldn’t speak Te Reo then but I could sing it,” she remembers.
Ever since Raina (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Māmoe, Kāi Tahu, Italy) has been refining her karanga and has performed on marae, with the Tamatea Arikinui Kapa Haka group and even at the Colosseum in Rome.
She now runs a karanga wānanga at Kurawaka Retreat Centre in Porangahau, with help from her husband Doc and three daughters. “We teach wāhine how to find their karanga voice and empower them to learn about who they are as Māori women.”
“A good karanga is delivered with love,” she says. “It is relevant to what is about to happen, serves the living and invokes the non-living, and it deals with wairua.”
Raina and her three daughters all wear moko kouae (chin tattoos) referring to their geneaology and she believes that knowing where you come from is an important part of Māori re-connecting with their culture and ensuring it stays rich and healthy, and the language alive.
Pākehā women can also attend the wānanga and learn more about the art form of karanga, moko kauae and related teachings.
“But wāhine cannot just leave here and expect to do karanga,” Raina cautions. “You have to be chosen and earn the right.”
One wāhine, now passed, who has been an inspiration for Raina, is Dr Rangimarie Turuki Rose Pere, known as Whaea Rose of Tūhoe, Ngāti Ruapani and Ngāti Kahungunu. “She stood in her own mana as a Māori woman and Māori leader,” says Raina.
“All the women who come here inspire me,” she adds. “They all come with their beautiful qualities and it is my reward to see them leaving empowered.”