no maori stands alone in joy or sorrow; no Maori goes to the grave unhonoured. In death, a month-old babe unites her people. From near and far, men, women and children come to the tangi—the great wailing—and, against a background of mournful sound, the age-old ritual proceeds. First, the moment of silent tribute at the steps of the meeting-house, followed by the handclasps of sympathy, and purification with water. Next, much oratory, and prayers — sonorous and beautiful in the Maori tongue — until the heart-stopping moment of wailing when three hundred people become a tribal entity, bearing one woman's grief.
Later, in the sunshine, there is feasting, and laughter returns to the marae. The tribal entity separates into three hundred irrepressible individuals, and a woman faces life again. Her tears are shed, her desolation shared, and there is no more wailing. No Maori stands alone in joy or sorrow.
Dr Vera D. Davidson comes from Scotland, but has lived for some years in New Zealand. She is a medical officer for schools in Gisborne. After attending a tangi for the first time, she felt impelled to write about it.
Later she sent her description to an English magazine, where it won first prize in a competition in which writers from all over the world took part. However, ‘Tangi’ has not previously been published in New Zealand. With Dr. Davidson's permission, it was sent to Te Ao Hou by Mrs G. Pewhairangi of Gisborne, who was so impressed with it that she wanted other people to have the opportunity of reading it.