Experience Guide to Maori Culture in New Zealand
As a visitor to New Zealand, you can experience Māori culture by visiting a marae with an organised tour.
The Maori have a rich culture, steeped in tradition and legend. Legend is passed down through the generations by story telling stories that tell of the creation of the islands of New Zealand and much more. During your vacation in New Zealand, you really need to experience some of Maori culture. It should practically be a law that you have to enjoy something Maori culture while visiting the land they discovered way before the Europeans arrived there. There are quite a few things that you can add to your adventure to get a taste of this fabulous culture.
The Maori culture are believed to be the indigenous people of New Zealand, immigrating here from Polynesia on canoes many years ago. This event was known as the “Great Fleet”.These polynesian people settled New Zealand and became known as the Maori culture. They formed their own unique maori culture, language and traditions.The Maori hunted the variety of birds and fish they found around New Zealand, and favoured the warmer climates of the North Island.Land wars broke out with the arrival of the European settlers. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was written and signed by several Maori Chiefs which gave the British monarchy sovereignty over parts of New Zealand. Confusion has long remained over what the treaty actually said and meant, as the Maori version translates differently to the English version. The Maori believed they retained the rights to their land.
Te Reo Maori, the Maori language
Traditionally Maori used the spoken word as their means of communication, this oral culture placed – and still places- a great emphasis on songs, stories, poems and legends: it is here Maori recorded their history. Today Te Reo Maori, an official language of New Zealand, is spoken to varying degrees throughout the country; and many place names have retained, or returned, to their original Maori name. By learning a few basic rules of word formation and pronunciation, the language is fairly logical and consistent: give it a go!
Maori Art & Performance
Maori art and performance is deeply associated with New Zealand’s landscape and environment. Maori art draws heavily on Polynesian carving and weaving techniques.Weaving and carving are used to visually convey important myths, legends and history. Maori art forms such as these are therefore akin to the written word in European culture a form of visual literature. Whilst many international visitors will be familiar with the Maori haka, performed prior to each All Blacks game, there are many other forms of Maori performance. Grouped together under the term ‘kapa haka’, performance arts such as poi dances, waiata a ringa (action songs) and waiata tawhito (traditional Maori chant) are used to tell stories, convey history, celebrate, protest and entertain.
Maori Culture Food
New Zealanders eat a fairly balanced diet of fresh vegetables with either meat or fish as their main evening meal. Tauranga has a number of restaurants and cafes catering to a variety of international tastes. Imported food products are also readily available from local retail outlets.Meals and Table Manners are good. Most New Zealanders eat three meals each day: Breakfast (around 7-8am), lunch (12- 2pm) and an evening meal called dinner or tea (6-8pm).New Zealanders usually eat with a knife, fork and spoon. If you are not sure which one to use, ask your hosts.If your hosts asks you if you would like a ‘second helping’ (more to eat), accept if you would like more, but if you have had enough, just say ‘no thank you’. Your hosts will not think you are impolite.
Māori values and beliefs
Māori place a high value on family ties and are proud of their heritage and iwi links. It’s not uncommon for grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandchildren to live within a family unit and the sharing of food, games and stories has always been a favourite tradition and past time. Skills such as carving and weaving that are hundreds of years old are passed down from generation to generation. Some people have tattoos (moko) representing their heritage or status you’ll often see spiralling koru and intricate representations of mountains and rivers.Oral legends also play a big part in Māori culture. Since the language only began to be written down by Europeans culture when they arrived, Māori legends, stories and messages were passed between families and iwis by song, dance or speech. They are continued to be spoken or performed today, with very little variation from the original versions.Māori have a special connection with the land, rivers, mountains and oceans of New Zealand. Some of these areas are tapu (sacred/untouchable/spiritually or religiously protected) because of the belief that a spirit resides there or that it was the site of a historic event. Special customs are observed during ceremonies such as births, weddings and funerals to keep with traditional protocols.
Maori customs and traditions often prevail over occasions large and small birth, life and death will bring ritual, whilst occasions such as a meal or gathering will begin with prayer (karakia), often involve songs (waiata) and speeches of welcome (whaikorero). Visitors to Maori meeting houses (marae) need to be aware that protocol often influences the way to behave and formal greetings (powhiri) between the hosts (tangata whenua) and guests (manuhiri) hold significance.