How the Casketeers’ Tipene family are introducing Māori values to more people

Francis and Kaiora Tipene hugging with their young son standing next to them

It’s been a nail-biting time for the Tipene family, as they open a new branch of their funeral business and launch a book that comes from the heart.

Our new Tipene Funerals branch in Porirua is finally open. It has been a long time coming and we have had a lot of obstacles on the way – right up till the last minute. We were really pushing it.

One of the episodes of the last series of The Casketeers talked about the new branch, and at the end there was a caption saying it was opening soon. We announced it would happen on May 22.

Two days later we got an email from the council asking us whether we were planning to have a formal gathering to launch our business. They said we didn’t have all the official council sign-offs.

I thought: “Is he referring to the code of compliance?”

I forwarded the email to the construction company and asked: “What is going on?”

Our contact there told me the council was right and they were still in the process of getting it certified. This was the week before our big launch. Fortunately, the work was finished on Wednesday, the final inspection got the big tick on the Thursday and we were able to have the launch on Saturday.

It was all go in those last days. Francis was there directing people all over the place: “The lounge is that way… the chapel is that way…” Just after the inspectors had been, a woman popped in. Francis thought she was one of the caterers and pointed her to the kitchen.

“Um, I’m the mayor,” she said. It was Anita Baker, the mayor of Porirua.

“Oh my gosh, dear, I’m so sorry. Welcome to our whare. Let me show you around.”

It was a beautiful turnout on the day. We haven’t done our first funeral yet, but people are making appointments to discuss arrangements in advance for loved ones.

Our other new project

With all that going on, we’ve barely had time to think about our new book, Tikanga. I was a bit nervous about it because it is our own view of all aspects of tikanga as we learnt them growing up.

It’s our very personal understanding of concepts such as whānau and whakapapa and many other things that are important to us as Māori. It is not saying this is the way they are for everybody. I’m grateful the book makes that clear.

But I showed it to one of our really good friends who was brought up in tikanga and is very in touch with her tūrangawaewae. Her reaction made me feel comfortable about it.

The original idea for the book was to provide information for all those Pākehā who have expressed a desire to us to know more about our culture and say they don’t know where to look. I think it does that. It’s not a book that people have to read cover to cover, but one they can pick up to read about a topic they might be interested in, like aroha or utu.

And because it’s also by Francis, I think there is a lot of humour in it.

Tikanga: Living with the traditions of te ao Māori by Francis and Kaiora Tipene
Tikanga: Living with the traditions of te ao Māori by Francis and Kaiora Tipene, (HarperCollins, $39.99)

Kaiora Tipene works with her husband, Francis, as a funeral director and they star in the Netflix show, The Casketeers.

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