Koha (custom)

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This article is about a Māori custom. For other meanings see "Koha (disambiguation)".

Koha is a New Zealand Māori custom which can be translated as gift, present, offering, donation or contribution.

Traditional usage[edit]

Koha is an example of the reciprocity which is a common feature of much Māori tradition, and often involves the giving of gifts by visitors to a host marae. Traditionally this has often taken the form of food although taonga (treasured possessions) are also sometimes offered as koha.

In modern times money is most commonly given to offset the costs of hosting a hui. For the benefit of non-Māori unfamiliar with the custom some marae may suggest a particular amount to be given as koha although this amount may not meet the actual costs associated with the meeting.

Wider usage[edit]

In wider current New Zealand society the term has a broader meaning more closely associated with the English term donation. When you are invited to a "free" event you may be asked for koha, usually in the form of a "gold coin donation" (i.e., $1 or $2 - this being the colour of these coins - rather than smaller silver coin denominations).

In New Zealand English it is becoming more frequent to refer to the small gifts, or more commonly food such as biscuits, desserts or cakes, which are presented when visiting friends or family as koha. Such gifts are common custom among New Zealanders, especially in rural areas. This custom, if not rooted in Māori custom (tikanga), has been reinforced by it.

The Koha Open Source library system originated in New Zealand, and takes its name from this custom.

See also[edit]

  • Potlatch, a similar practice among some First Nations peoples of west coast North America
  • Kula, a similar practice in Papua New Guinea
  • Moka, a similar practice in the Mt. Hagen area of Papua New Guinea
  • Sepik Coast exchange, a similar practice in the Sepic Coast of Papua New Guinea
  • Gift Economy, koha and similar practices of reciprocal giving are forms of gift economies.