Whare Tapere were pre-European pā based ‘houses’ of story telling, dance, music, games and much more. Sometimes, special buildings were erected for these purposes, but on most occasions, whare tapere were convened at non-specific localities such as the base of a tree or around a large bonfire or within an existing building. In some examples, such as at Kāwhia, whole islands were set aside for the whare tapere.
The desire to be entertained is a ubiquitous feature of life throughout the world. Whoever we are, we all enjoy stories, dancing, music, games and so on. We love to be entertained - and the whare tapere was the traditional Māori venue wherein entertainment and fun was actively pursued.
The spirit and purpose of the whare tapere is expressed in the following expression:
Kia kawea tātou e te rēhia
Let us be taken by the spirit of joy, of entertainment
Some of the items of the whare tapere include:
• Ngā Waiata – songs and singing
• Ngā Kōrero – stories and storytelling
• Ngā Haka – dance and dancing
• Ngā Taonga Pūoro – musical instruments
• Ngā Taonga-a-Wharawhara – body adornments
• Ngā Tākaro – games and other amusements
The whare tapere also includes kakara (perfumes), karetao (puppets), whakahoro taratahi (kite flying) and much more.
Unfortunately, whare tapere fell into disuse in the 19th century during the movement of our people from pā villages to new townships. Many things of the old pā society and culture were left behind including the whare tapere. Despite this, however, it is remarkable what information has been preserved about these houses. Whare tapere have been undergoing a revival much like the revival of taonga pūoro in recent decades.
We do not have an intact whare tapere tradition and it is not possible to recreate accurately what whare tapere must have been like in those pre-European times. But it is possible, however, to uplift existing fragments of information and knowledge and utilise them to inspire the creation of new performances. This then is the work of Ōrotokare – to conduct research into the historical whare tapere and utilise this knowledge to inspire the creation of the new whare tapere, mindful too that much of what we do today is an act of creation rather than of maintenance and/or revitalisation.
You can read much more about the whare tapere by consulting Charles Royal's doctoral dissertation which can be found here