Maori people are immensely proud of their culture, eager to share it with New Zealanders and visitors. There are countless traditions worth experiencing with these vibrant people.
Face tattoos that tell a person’s life story, welcoming ceremonies such as Pwhiri or war dances like Haka are among many activities you can participate in and enjoy. Additionally, world-class museums like Auckland Museum offer plenty of learning opportunities.
Ko Tane Maori Village Experience
Visitors to New Zealand often make time for a trip to a Maori village, providing them with an immersive cultural experience and providing insight into this distinctive society. It also allows travelers to gain more information on its history.
One of the most renowned Maori villages across New Zealand is Mitai Maori Village in Auckland. Here you can experience an ancient welcome ceremony known as Powhiri, see ancient canoes known as Waka and enjoy full Maori performances – making this village especially suitable for families and children.
Maori villages provide visitors with plenty of chances to engage in authentic Maori cultural experiences; Maraes provide additional chances. A cultural show generally includes performances of traditional dance forms known as Haka and Taonga cloth display as well as traditional hangi dinner cooking techniques in an underground pit.
Visit Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch’s Ko Tane Living Maori Village for an immersive cultural experience, along with New Zealand flora and fauna observation. Tour includes cultural show as well as walk through reserve where visitors hear tales of Maori mythology while watching Kiwi birds roam freely around you!
Marae are places where Maori celebrate their culture and traditions. These gatherings can range from sub-tribal gatherings (hapu) and tribe gatherings (iwi), weddings, birthdays, funerals, reunions, tangihanga (unveiling), political meetings or religious/spiritual gatherings – and often feature intricate carvings that recall tribal history and legends.
Before entering a marae, visitors must first go through a powhiri ritual performed by warriors. Once inside, an Iwi member will greet and inform you what awaits on the marae, including customs that must be observed and what can be expected there.
Tradition dictates speaking Maori on a marae, though English or other first languages may also be utilized. What matters most is showing respect for Maori efforts in maintaining their language.
Many Iwi provide cultural performances, such as Kapa Haka and Hangi Dinners, that allow visitors to gain insight into Maori culture. You can gain knowledge through these shows about Maori traditions; however, for an unforgettable cultural experience stay on a Marae.
Kapa Haka Experience
As well as witnessing the All Blacks perform their signature haka dance before every rugby match, Maori performing arts are filled with beauty and power – from emotional chants to graceful action songs, you will be spellbound by this captivating tradition during your visit.
Kapa haka are group performances consisting of waiata (traditional chants), karanga (art of calling), and pao (short, topical songs). Haka is perhaps the most famous form, but there are dozens to experience!
Successful haka performances depend on passion and teamwork, two qualities Annette and Tapeta Wehi possess in abundance. As winners of two national kapa haka titles to date, their approach entails tapping into everyone’s potential so as to celebrate being Maori rather than trying to rationalize why someone may not fit the mold.
Tapeta and her husband work to maintain Maori culture and values during an age of pandemics, in part by being role models to show Maori people are still here and strong. She often travels with him as ambassadors of New Zealand in order to share his values with global audiences.
Enoka and Ngapo will also learn the value of whanaungatanga and kaitiakitanga – values integral to Maori culture and relationship building – from their parents. Such relationships, along with respecting elders and predecessors helps maintain mana, which stands for personal power and authority.
Senior travelers looking to experience Maori culture should plan a hangi dinner. This traditional method of cooking involves meat and vegetables being placed into an underground oven called a hangi. Due to its lengthy preparation time, however, hangi dinners should only be reserved for special events.
To prepare a hangi, rocks – traditionally volcanic or basalt rocks – are heated over hot coals before adding the ingredients for kai (meat, vegetables and stuffing) from which a hangi is made. Once this step has been completed, thin cloth sheets and heavier sacking material are placed over top for insulation before being covered with earth for extra heat retention. Thinner cloth sheets may also be placed overtop to keep out dirt; while some will even add extra protection with tarpaulin coverings for added protection from dirt!
After some time has passed, the pit is removed and food is revealed, then served on plates with salad and fried bread for example. For those with an increased sweet tooth, steamed pudding may also be available.
Visit a Maori village if you want a deeper insight into this vibrant culture’s lifestyle today. From learning about Moko body markings and Whaairo carving, to stargazing at Matariki (an annual festival dedicated to celebrating the Pleiades constellation) stargazing – there’s something fun and memorable here for everyone to experience!