It’s cool to kōrero — May 2024

May 28, 2024

Kanohi — face, eyesight

Issues are debated kanohi-ki-te-kanohi on the marae. Photo: Adobe Stock
Making the effort to turn up in person can indicate a person’s commitment and integrity. Photo: Adobe Stock
Meeting someone kanohi-ki-te-kanohi allows you to not only hear their words but also read their body language. Photo: iStock
Kanohi wera means “kitchen hand” — it literally translates as “hot face”.

Kanohi mōwhiti is the little native bird which has distinctive white rings round its eyes (known as a wax-eye, silver-eye or white-eye in English). Mōwhiti can translate as “rings” or “spectacles”. Photo: iStock

Haere mai and welcome to the May “it’s cool to kōrero” column. The Māori word kanohi means face, and also eyesight.Many people will be familiar with the phrase kanohi-ki-te-kanohi, meaning face-to-face. This is an important concept in tikanga. To make the effort to turn up in person, to deal with others kanohi-ki-te-kanohi, can indicate a person’s integrity.If you are there, in person, eg at a hui or tangihanga, it suggests your commitment to people, to a place, to an issue. It also means that others can assess you by more than just your words, but can also read your body language.

The marae is a place where ideas and issues are debated kanohi-ki-te-kanohi.
Although the social distancing required during the COVID-19 pandemic was vital, and the rise of distance learning and e-health is good for isolated Māori, these changes can be challenging for a culture that values being there in person. “We are kanohi-ki-te-kanohi people,” a Māori educator said during the lockdown.


Kupu hou (new word)
  • Kanohi (face) — pronounced “car-nor-hee”
  • He rawe kia kite, kanohi ki te kanohi aku mokopuna. — It’s good to see my grandchildren face to face.

Other words and phrases related to kanohi include:

  • Kanohi-ki-te-kanohi — face to face, in person
  • Pātū kanohi — face guard
  • Kanohi hōmiromiro — keen-sighted (after the bird hōmiromiro (tomtit) which has very good eyesight)
  • Kanohi kākāpō — short-sighted
  • Kanohi wera — kitchen hand (literally “hot face”)
  • Kanohi taiaha — person who keeps on good terms with both sides in an argument/two-faced
  • Kanohi mōwhiti — wax-eye/silver-eye (small green bird with white rings around eyes)
  • Kanohi kē — mask

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