I had the opportunity this week to learn more about New Zealand's Maori culture. A fascinating hour, well spent.
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.
While a legend, what makes this so interesting is seeing the map of New Zealand. The South Island is shaped like a canoe, and the North Island like a fish. No satellite pictures, no maps, no airplanes to fly over to see the outline from above. How did the Maori figure this out so long ago?
Today, approximately 600,000 residents (15% of the population), self identify as Maori. While a small part of the total population, Maori culture and terms from the 1840 treaty between the British government and Maori tribes remain a big part of what New Zealand is today.
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.
Photo taken by Adam Bryce
While Maori cultural experiences can be found all through out New Zealand, Rotorua is the "capital" for a reason. And the area offers adventure, nature and culinary experiences as well. A beautiful spot not to be missed!
All photos courtesy of 100% New Zealand Tourism
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