New Zealand’s Maori culture is an indispensable part of its lives, influencing everything from cuisine to customs and language.
The Maori are indigenous to New Zealand, arriving more than 1,000 years ago from their mythical Hawaiian homeland in Polynesia. One in seven New Zealanders today is a Maori. Their history, language and traditions are central to New Zealand’s cultural identity.
Maori cultural origin in New Zealand
In 1840, New Zealand’s founding constitutional document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed by both the Maori chiefs and the British representatives.
After the treaty was signed, Britain’s population soon outnumbered the Maori population. For more than a century after the Treaty was signed, the Pākehā culture (often synonymous with New Zealand’s European culture, mainly rooted in British culture) dominated New Zealand. The Maori are expected to adapt to the Pākehā culture.
It was not until the 1980s that Maori indigenous culture began to experience its renaissance. Since then, there has been a new focus on multiculturalism, based on a partnership established between the Maori and the UK by the Treaty of Waitangi. Since then, New Zealand Maori culture has played an important role in everyday life in New Zealand.
Learn about Maori culture and traditions
As an official language, Te Reo Māori is commonly heard and many official landmarks are in Māori. You can easily learn the correct pronunciation of landmarks, along with some simple Maori words and phrases.
Tikanga, or Maori custom, is also very important in everyday life. Manaakitanga is all about welcoming guests and providing great hospitality, something all Kiwis are proud of.
Kaitiakitanga demonstrates a sense of respect and guardianship of the Maori for the natural world. This philosophy is at the heart of the love and concern that many New Zealanders have for the environment. The Maori ask all visitors to New Zealand to fulfill their “Tiaki Promise” – showing respect for precious natural resources.
The best place to learn about Maori culture is on the marae – a sacred gathering space that is the focal point of Maori communities across New Zealand.
In regions like Northland, Auckland or Rotorua, you can visit a marae to experience a traditional Maori welcome. During your marae visit, you will also hear Maori speeches and singing, watch carved meeting houses, salute the local people with hongi (nose touch) and enjoy a cooking party. in the clay oven
Performing arts, also known as kapa haka, combines harmonious singing, rhythmic dancing and Māori dance is a must-see for any visitor. Many visits to Maori culture in New Zealand include performing kapa haka with the most famous venue for these shows being the Rotorua in the North Island.
Tā moko – the Maori tattoo art – is a unique expression of cultural heritage and identity. In New Zealand’s Maori culture, it reflects the individual’s history and the whakapapa (ancestor) of the individual. In earlier times, it was an important sign of social rank, knowledge, skills and marital status.
Traditionally, men tattooed on their face, buttocks, and thighs. The Maori believe that the head is the holiest part of the body, so facial tattoos have a special meaning. Women often tattoo on the lips and chin, or sometimes on the neck.
Creative Māori arts such as weaving and carving celebrate the past and continue to evolve through new materials. Toi visual art, or Maori visual arts, revolves around four main types of art: weaving, carving, tattooing and drawing. These art forms are not merely decorative. Maori art is highly spiritual and before Europeans arrived in New Zealand, carvings, carpets and tattoos captured and conveyed information about history, ancestry and legends.
You can take a closer look at the Maori arts at Maori cultural centers and galleries across New Zealand. One such place is Te Puia in Rotorua, which allows visitors to enter the textile and sculpture schools to see the artists at work.
Once you choose to experience the Maori arts, you will surely be fascinated and inspired, and may even find a special taonga (treasure) to take home as a souvenir.