Tūrangawaewae: the place where you belong

When does one fully belong to a place?

I first learned the word / concept of tūrangawaewae during a lesson in Māori pronunciation at work. The colleague who offered the class described tūrangawaewae as the place where you feel like you belong, or your spiritual home, regardless of where you are actually from.

The Māori Dictionary defines tūrangawaewae as follows:

domicile, standing, place where one has the right to stand – place where one has rights of residence and belonging through kinship and whakapapa.

Also from the Māori Dictionary (and all these links contain recordings of the words so you can hear how they sound), here are the definitions of the two parts of the word:

tūranga: stand, position, situation, site, foundation, stance

waewae: leg, foot, or footprint

Also important:

whakapapa: genealogy, genealogical table, lineage, descent. Reciting whakapapa was, and is, an important skill and reflected the importance of genealogies in Māori society in terms of leadership, land and fishing rights, kinship and status. It is central to all Māori institutions.

What I like about my colleague’s explanation of tūrangawaewae  — and I may be misunderstanding what she said given the apparent importance of whakapapa? — is that it’s not necessarily about where you’re from, but where your spirit feels at home.

As for who belongs where, the editors of Mount Vision Press, a publishing house in West Marin, where I used to live and where tempers flare over who’s “local” and who isn’t, handled the issue very skilfully in the dedication to the first edition of their Inverness Almanac:



“The mountains belong to those who love them.”
-Dogēn Zenji

Any place belongs to those who love it.
This almanac belongs to those who love this place.

While it still feels a bit early to claim I “belong” here, there is no doubt that I love this place, Auckland / Tāmaki, that I am here, and here I am.

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