The speaker, a Maori himself, comes from a family with a long history of promoting this island nation. We were treated to a number of wonderful pictures, paintings and stories, including ones of his great grandmother dancing in New York City promoting New Zealand's culture. I wish I could share them here, but they were pictures from his own photo album.
New Zealand is considered to be be of the world's youngest nations, and how it "came about" I found especially fascinating. I've always been aware of Polynesian influence on New Zealand, but I did not know about the legend of Maui, the Hawaiian demigod, and how he fished" up the North Island.
Maui and his brothers were fishing in their canoe. Maui had made a fishhook from a magical ancestral jawbone, and threw it over the side of their canoe, reciting magic words while doing so. The hook went deeper and deeper, and when Maui felt a tug, he and his brothers pulled the "fish" up to the surface. This fish became the North Island.
To this day, the North Island is known as Te Ika, "Maui's Fish" in Maori, and the South Island Te Waka, "Maui's canoe".
To really immerse oneself in Maori culture, go to Rotorua, the cultural capital of New Zealand, where they do a wonderful job showcasing Maori history. Here you can experience a hongi, the traditional Maori greeting and haka, the war dance. Another top Maori experience is lunch at the Whakarewarewa Maouri Village - cooked traditionally using the geothermal steam of the geyers. Of course relaxing in one of the mud paths or geothermal spas is also a must.
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