June 11, 2013 in Inspiration
It is well known that New Zealand is an amazing tourist destination, given its outstanding natural beauty and plenitude of sporting and cultural attractions. What may not be as familiar to travellers heading towards this island nation is the fact that the history of the Maori people and the history of New Zealand are inextricably intertwined.
Polynesians were the first settlers on New Zealand, beginning in the year 1250. This was nearly four hundred years before the first Europeans landed on New Zealand soil in 1642. In the ensuing years, countless Europeans and Asians have made the country their home, and the Maori people are now the largest minority group in the nation.
Nevertheless, the artwork, stories, dances and legends of the Maori people have deep roots in New Zealand’s history, politics and culture. This bond is so strong that, even after the state attempted to suppress Maori culture and language to encourage their assimilation into mainstream culture, efforts were instead turned to preserving and fostering the unique Maori ethos.
The Maori language, te reo Māori, is undergoing a resurgence, and the same holds true for Maori culture. This is fortunate for visitors to New Zealand who have an interest in the Maori people, because there is now a rich Maori heritage to be explored and enjoyed. If you are planning a trip to New Zealand and would like to learn more about Maori culture, do not miss the important and significant sites listed below.
Te Puia: New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute
Located in Rotorua, Te Puia is New Zealand’s definitive Maori cultural centre. Guided tours are provided to all visitors. Among the attractions are live Maori cultural performances, weaving workshops, wood carving, a kiwi house and an exhibition gallery.
The Rotowhio Marae is particularly interesting. A marae is a tribe’s traditional meeting venue, within which all community activities are centred.
Be sure to experience Pikirangi, or Maori village, to get a feel of what life was like in a typical Maori village before the arrival of Europeans.
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa:
More commonly referred to as Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum is located in Wellington, where it provides a rich source of information on Maori culture and history. The museum displays a wide range of artworks as well as models of formal structures. Visitors are able to view many examples of traditional Maori clothing, including more than 300 Maori cloaks from different time periods.
Auckland Museum: Maori Cultural Experience:
Each day, the Auckland Museum stages an utterly unique and intriguing Maori cultural performance. Culminating in a thrilling dance, it is essential viewing for anyone who is interested in Maori culture. You can extend the experience by meeting the dancers and participants personally, and sharing photo opportunities at the end of the performance. In addition, the performers will escort you on a tour of the Maori Gallery. Here, you can view the world’s largest collection of priceless Maori objects and treasures (also known as “taongo”).
Hotonui is a famous marae which is situated within the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The walls of the marae contain an extensive and fascinating array of wooden carvings.
Ko Tane: Maori Cultural Experience
Ko Tane offers a delightfully different Maori cultural experience. Located in Christchurch on the South Island, Ko Tane is situated in Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. In this natural setting, the Maori experience feels truly authentic. Your tour will begin with a Powhiri, which is a conventional Maori form of welcome. In addition, you can enjoy cultural performances, a Kiwi tour, and a Hangi meal, and explore a traditional Maori village.
Even though the various cultural sites are located on both the North and South Islands, tourists can easily visit them all in rental cars that can be obtained from Europcar. The opportunity to experience these culturally significant sites should not be missed.
If you are travelling from overseas, a visit to New Zealand is likely a once-in-a-lifetime trip for you. By all means, enjoy the jaw-dropping natural beauty, participate in the different sporting pursuits, and feast on world-class cuisine. However, do make time to immerse yourself in the indigenous Maori culture. To visit a Maori cultural site is to hear the words, “Haere Mai”. They bid you to “welcome, enter”!