Discover Maori Culture in New Zealand

in New Zealand

The traditional ways of the Maori people are fading as the original inhabits of New Zealand assimilate with the Europeans who now call New Zealand home.

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However there are still many places around the country that allow you to experience the culture of these indigenous people.

Many historians regard Waitangi in the Bay of Islands as the birthplace of the modern New Zealand nation. It was here that the white settlers and native Maoris came together to sign the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, an agreement which gave the Europeans the rule of the nation and the original inhabitants their land rights. Its history makes Waitangi a great place for learning more about Maori culture. Today Treaty House, the site where the original pact was signed, is a meeting house decorated with intricate wood carvings. A waka, or war canoe, is also on display. It was built to celebrate the centenary of the treaty, and photographs show exactly how it was done. The Waitangi National Reserve also offers Maori tours twice daily and cultural performances called He Toho. The women dance while the men channel their warrior traditions with the haka.

maori 150x150 Discover Maori Culture in New Zealand

A Maori warrior

While Rotorua has a reputation for extreme sports, it’s also rich in Maori culture. After you’ve worked up an appetite with the bungee jumping and white water rafting, make sure you visit the Tamaki Maori Village for dinner. The Maori people serve up a traditional hangi feast, which will fill you up while offering an insight into Maori traditions.

Wellington has New Zealand’s National Museum, which is also known by its Maori name Te Papa. There are more than 30, 000 artifacts there, including clothing, weapons, jewelry, and tools. The museum also tells the history of the Maori people, from their early settlement to interaction with the white people. On Wednesday nights the museum hosts Taonga Mataora in its meeting house. This cultural event includes dancing, dinner, and a few cheeky cocktails.

If you’re in the mood for more museums you can’t go past the Tairawhiti Museum in Gisborne. It centers on the arts and crafts of the Maori people living on the North Islands East Coast.

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Local artists sit alongside prominent artisans from the rest of the world. It’s also a great place for souvenirs, with many of the artworks available for purchase. While in Gisborne make sure you visit the Te Poho-o-Rawiri, which is open to the public whenever official Maori business isn’t going on. The decorative wood carvings look much more impressive and authentic here than in any stuffy museum.

While in New Zealand you don’t want to miss the Maori culture. It’s always just there below the surface, a reminder of this country’s proud heritage and history.

[Image Source: Geoftheref/Flickr]

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