In a bid to combat the spread of coronavirus, Hawke's Bay iwi Ngāti Kahungunu is taking matters into their own eyebrows.

Ngāti Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said the iwi would be replacing the handshake, and traditional Māori greeting hongi, with the "raising of the eyebrows" called the "Kahungunu wave".

"The Kahungunu wave is the raising of the eyebrows in greeting, in affirmation, in exasperation, or in seduction," Tomoana said.

Ngāti Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana, left, shows how the Kahungunu wave is done. Photo / Ngāti Kahungunu
Ngāti Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana, left, shows how the Kahungunu wave is done. Photo / Ngāti Kahungunu

"The nickname for Ngāti Kahungunu descendants over the past 200 years was Ngā Tukemata o Kahungunu, meaning the bushy eyebrows of Kahungunu."


In his time Kahungunu was renowned for travelling alone throughout the country while others travelled in groups of warriors. Such was his charisma, Tomoana said.

"Everywhere he went, he would help build and strengthen communities as he revealed his hardworking ethics by gathering food, building houses, constructing and designing pā.

"The symbol of his multi marriages, (some say eight, some say 13) was the raising of his eyebrows to attract or enact a romantic liaison."

This raising of the eyebrows is what the iwi referred to as the "Kahungunu wave".

"Every time he did raise his eyebrows or did the 'Kahungunu wave', a new hapū was formed."

In the iwi's history and traditionally the "Kahungunu wave" was as common and even more often used than the hongi, Tomoana said.

"In this pandemic 'coronavirus' atmosphere, we are urging all Ngāti Kahungunu to revert to our tikanga, the 'Kahungunu wave' – Te Mihi ā-Tukemata a Kahungunu," Tomoana said.

"It is all right not to hongi, it is all right not to kiss, it is all right not to hug, it is all right to put a rāhui around yourself and around your whānau and friends."


A rāhui is a protective measure for a place, for things and for people.

"Kawa and tikanga are often a reason to dutifully follow custom and tradition currently practised on the marae and other places.

"However tikanga demands that we do what's tika or what's right for any occasion. For example it may be kawa to have all your pōhiri outside, but if it's pouring with rain, it is tika to have your pōhiri inside," he said.

"There's the Mexican wave and this is the 'Kahungunu wave'. Don't be naive, do the 'Kahungunu wave'," Tomoana said.

The iwi will also be using marae in the region, if required, for isolation and quarantine purposes, he said.

"The marae is volunteering to support not just our whanau, but the community as well."

He said the marae was self-sustaining.

"We have our own cooking, and other facilities. We would be self-sustaining without leaving the community. We will be talking to DHB and other services about this in the next week or so."

What to look for:

Coronavirus symptoms include fever, shortness of breath and cough.

In some patients, particularly the elderly and others with other chronic health conditions, these symptoms can develop into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

It seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough.

After a week, it can lead to shortness of breath, with about 20 per cent of patients requiring hospital treatment.

Notably, the Covid-19 infection rarely seems to cause a runny nose, sneezing, or sore throat (these symptoms have been observed in only about 5 per cent of patients). Sore throat, sneezing, and stuffy nose are most often signs of a cold.

So far 4615 people have died worldwide from the outbreak.