Firstly, a little bit of history. The Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, who arrived in the country between 1250 and 1300 AD. These people created and built a unique culture which became known as the ‘Maori’, which included their own language, methodology, creativity and performing arts.
At the start of the 17th century, Europeans arrived in New Zealand, bringing with them aspects of Western culture. As a result, Maori people gradually took up these ways of life and, in 1840, a new treaty was signed, meaning the two cultures coexisted in New Zealand.
However, in the 1860’s, tension grew as a result of social conflict and epidemics of disease which had a devastating affect on the Maroi population, due to their lack of immunity to these new diseases; but, by the 20th century, the Maori population
The Maori language is spoken amongst many Maori people, and certain words have been adopted throughout New Zealand English, such as ‘Kia Ora’, which means ‘be well/healthy’ and is often used as a way of saying ‘hello’. Maori are active throughout New Zealand society and culture, with independent representation in media, politics and sport.
My own Maori experience took place on a Friday evening in May 2015. I was staying at a campsite in Rotorua, and we were picked up by a coach driven by a very
We stopped at various other campsites and hotels to pick up other guests, all of varying ages. I could definitely feel the buzzing atmosphere on the coach as we approached the village. Everyone was noticeably keen to get involved in what the evening had to offer.
Due to the time of year, it was fully dark throughout our evening, which started with a 5pm pick up and ended when we were dropped back off at about 9.30pm. The darkness added to the atmosphere, lights were dimmed and shone over expertly carved Maori sculptures, creating intriguing shadows in front of us.
About four coach loads of people arrived with us at the front of the Tamaki Maori Village, located in the native Tawa Forest. We were welcomed by the Powhiri, an ancient Maori welcoming ceremony. This was very unique and impressive. The passion during the performance was conveyed faultlessly. I could feel the pride the Maori people hold for their culture. It felt so ingrained in their existence. The feeling was contagious; I wanted to join in with them!
Following this, we were taken through to the main village which had a warm yet eerie feel about it. I literally felt like I had stepped back in time, back to pre-European Maori existence. The trees stood tall amongst wooden huts and sculptures. Soft flute music was playing into our ears. The sights and sounds worked together to take us back in history; the Maori inhabitants sported facial tattoos, and body covers made out of various natural materials. We were greeted in Maori language and responded in
Groups were formed and we made our way around various areas of the village to watch demonstrations from the Maori people. This included weaving, carving, game activities and warrior training. The Maori people were extremely creative and used any resources they had to hand to keep fit, healthy and keep themselves entertained.
We then watched in awe as our dinner was pulled from the ground – literally. Maori tradition sees food cooked in a hang pit which is dug into the ground. Meats and vegetables are cooked on hot stones and provide a delicious and nutritious meal. The smoke bellowed out and the food was displayed in front of us. I was very hungry and really couldn’t wait to dig into such an amazing feast! It was certa
Entertainment then came our way, with various performances from the Maori inhabitants. Impressive cultural displays included dances, stick games, poi, weaponry demonstrations and, of course, the iconic ‘Haka’, which is the Maori war dance. Just like the welcoming ceremony, this was performed with so much passion, grit and pride. It made my skin shiver; I could really feel the energy in the room. I was so impressed. I felt part of the Maori culture and really believed the Maori people felt rewarded by taking us into their culture and demonstrating their traditions, many of which still stand strong today.
I was blown away further by the feast that we were presented with as we entered the dining hall. Meats, vegetables, salad, gravy, bread, followed by steamed pudding and custard or the traditional pavlova with cream. I felt like I was in a dream. Especially as a backpacker, this sort of meal doesn’t come a
After some more interactive performances including the guests, sadly it was time for the night to end. Our coach driver was just as talkative and friendly as before the experience, and sang with us on our journey home.
I was quite overwhelmed by the experience and I will never forget it. It proved to be the true Maori experience I had hoped for, and so much more. I feel touched to have been greeted into the Maori culture and traditional ways of life, and feel blessed to have learnt so much about it in such an incredible setting. The Maori people have such pride and passion about their native roots and it is fantastic to see the traditions held so strongly today.
I’d like to thank Tamaki Maori Village for such an incredible experience. It is one I’d recommend to everybody. You will be touched and I truly think the Maori culture will enter your heart, even more so than it has already from your time in New Zealand.