Handshakes, hugs and hongi have been shunned in favour of the "East Coast Wave" amid the worsening Covid-19 outbreak.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern issued the stark advice as she announced the "strictest border restriction rules in the world" at the weekend.

"If you don't need to travel overseas, then don't. Enjoy your own backyard for a time. Stop handshakes, hugs and hongi.

"The best thing we can do right now to show love and affection to one another is to switch to the East Coast Wave."


Not quite sure how to go about it? Never fear, Ardern and her sign language interpreter Alan Wendt can show you the ropes.

While Ardern's wave was short-lived, interpreter Wendt's double-header version is much easier to copy.

Wendt later explained his expertise, saying he had lived for five years in South Auckland, five years in Porirua, and he was Samoan.

Also taking the matter out of their hands is a Hawke's Bay iwi, who have ditched skin-to-skin contact for the "Kahungunu wave".

Ngāti Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana told NZME "raising of eyebrows" had replaced the hongi or handshake as a greeting.

Ngāti Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana, right, demonstrates Kahungunu wave. Photo / Ngāti Kahungunu
Ngāti Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana, right, demonstrates Kahungunu wave. Photo / Ngāti Kahungunu

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

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

Kahungunu was renowned for travelling solo throughout the country as others travelled in groups of warriors, in his time.


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

"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 [protective measure] around yourself and around your whānau and friends."

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