The Maori People
The long and intriguing story of the origin of the indigenous Maori #people can be traced back to the 13th century, the mythical homeland Hawaiki, Eastern Polynesia. Due to centuries of isolation, the Maori established a distinct society with characteristic art, a separate language and unique mythology.
HARURU FALLS, NORTH ISLAND
As a polytheist culture, the Maori worshipped many gods, goddesses and spirits. Maori believe that ancestors and supernatural beings are ever-present and able to help the #tribe in times of need. Myths are set in the remote past. They present Maori ideas about the creation of the universe and the origins of gods and of people.
The mythology accounts for natural phenomena, the weather, the stars and the moon, the fish in the sea, the birds of the forest, and the forests themselves. The Maori understanding of the development of the universe was expressed in genealogical form.
Defining aspects of Maori traditional culture include art, legends, tattoos(Ta Moko), performances (notably Kapa Haka), customs, hospitality and community.
Tattooing has always been an important part of Maori culture. Receiving tattoos is an important step to maturity and there are many rites and rituals associated with the event. Every member of a Maori tribe had a specific role and a specific place within the social order.
These journeys established the Maori as daring and resourceful adventurers, and as one of the greatest navigating peoples of all time. Due to centuries of isolation from the rest of the world, the Maori established a distinct society with characteristic art, a separate language and unique mythology.
While the arrival of Europeans had a profound impact on the Maori way of life, many aspects of traditional society have survived into the 21st century. The Maori participate fully in all spheres of New Zealand culture and society, leading largely Western lifestyles while also maintaining their own cultural and social customs.
Traditional kinship ties are actively maintained, and the whanau (extended family) in particular remains an integral part of Maori life. Though many Maori migrated to larger rural towns and cities, they remained almost exclusively a rural population.
Kai is the Maori word for food. The Maori diet was based on birds and fish, supplemented by wild herbs and roots. In their tribal gardens, Maori also grew root crops including yams, gourds and kumara (sweet potatoes).
The Maori usually cooked in underground ovens called Hangi. To this day, this traditional cooking method is still used on special occasions, creating feasts made from traditional ingredients.
DR PITA SHARPLES
The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand and their story is both long and intriguing. On the basis of oral records, archaeological finds and genetic analyses, we can place the arrival of Maori in New Zealand in the thirteenth century AD.
The origin of the Maori has been reliably traced to the islands of Eastern Polynesia. Their journey to New Zealand from the mythical homeland Hawaiki occurred in a number of Epic Waka (canoe) voyages over a significant period of time. Legend has it that twelve large canoes each carried a different tribe (Iwi). Even today, most Maori people can tell which original tribe they are descendants of.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the effects of early colonisation, wars and epidemics had reduced the Maori population to a low of around 40,000. In the early 20th century, the Maori population numbers began to recover and Maori culture underwent a renaissance. There are currently around 650,000 Maori in New Zealand.
The early Maori were very peaceful in comparison to later generations, amongst whom a warfare culture emerged with many battles between tribes.
The early settlers did not call themselves Maori until the arrival of the European colonists in the 18th century. They then needed a name to mark their distinction from the newcomers and used Maori, meaning ‘ordinary’ (as in different from the extraordinary gods).
TAUPO VILLAGE, NORTH ISLAND
Maori society is particularly visible at the marae. Formerly the central meeting spaces in traditional villages, marae frequently host events such as weddings, funerals and other large gatherings, with traditional protocol and etiquette usually observed. These events are great occasions to show off their colourful traditional garments, jewellery, intricate tattoos, dances and chants: in short, to reestablish Maori traditions.
The haka war dance, meant to intimidate the enemy, is one of the best-known cultural traditions of the Maori. These dances are accompanied by song and body percussion created by clapping hands, stomping feet and slapping thighs. The dance itself involves energetic postures representing warlike and aggressive poses.
Maori chanting follows very strict rules. To break a chant in midstream is to invite disaster or even death for a community. These chants often tell of family lines or the exploits of ancestors.