It’s cool to kōrero — December

December 14, 2022

Kei te whiti mai a Tama-nui-te-rā. – The sun is shining.


Haere mai, and welcome to the “kōrero” column for Hakihea (December). The sun, with its light and warmth, brings life, and has a powerful presence in Māori culture and mythology.


The story goes that the sun used to travel very rapidly across the sky, in its haste to get to bed, leaving a scant few hours of daylight for the tasks of daily life.

The hero Maui and his brothers used flax ropes to catch the sun and beat him with a magic jawbone to make him submit. From then on, the sun travelled slowly across the sky.

One of NZ Post’s 2021 Matariki stamps depicts Maui and his brothers harnessing Tama-nui-te-rā.

Māori musician and academic Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal says that because traditional Māori saw the sun’s birth, its journey across the sky, and its death repeated every day, they saw it as a basic principle of the world. The sun represented the birth and growth of mana.


He says that on the marae, a speaker will often announce themselves in this way:

Tihē mauriora
Ki te whaiao, ki Te Ao Mārama

The breath, the energy of life
To the dawnlight, to the world of light

“If the orator’s words offer guidance and wisdom, he brings his audience out of the ‘night’ of conflict and into the ‘day’ of peace and resolution,” Royal says.

Kopu hou (new word)
  • Te rā (the sun, the day) — pronounced te (as in ten) rrraa
  • Kei te whiti mai a Tama-nui-te-rā. – The sun is shining.

More words related to the sun:

  • Tama-nui-te-rā — the Māori sun god
  • Hineraumati — one of the sun’s two wives, with whom the sun spends the summer
  • Hinetakurua — the sun’s winter wife
  • Te ao mārama — the world of light, the world of understanding, the natural world
  • pūhihi/hunu — a ray of the sun
  • rerenga — the sun’s journey, rising or setting
  • whitinga o te rā — sunrise
  • tōnga o te rā — sunset
  • tūhoehoe — high (of the sun’s position)
  • uranga — the glowing, rising or setting of the sun
  • te ao — the light
  • te pō — the darkness

E mihi ana ki a Titihuia Pakeho rāua ko Mairi Lucas.


  1. Te Aka Māori Dictionary. 
  2. Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, Te Ao Mārama – the natural world — The traditional Māori world view, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
Pūhihi, a ray of sunlight, breaks through the bush. PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK
Sunrise in rural Waikato. PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK