Maori Culture

The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand and comprise about 14 percent of the country's population.

Maori Origins: Legend says that the Maori came from "Hawaiki", their legendary homeland about 1000 years ago. They found New Zealand to be quite different from their Polynesian homeland. Not only was it colder, but it volcanoes and huge snow capped mountains.

The Maoris named the land Aotearoa which means Land of the long white cloud. If you look closely at many photos you see of New Zealand you will see that long white cloud hanging in the picture.

Some Maori terms and traditions

The traditional Maori welcome is called a Powhiri, this involves a Hongi which is a greeting that involves pressing noses as opposed to a kiss. This is the sharing of the breath of life, considered to have come directly from the gods.

In the Maori culture, carving (Whakairo) is both an art form and a means of communication. Every shape, motif or line has a meaning. This is the way legends and history are passed down from generation to generation. The technical skills have been handed down from one carver to the next. Training programs can take several years to complete. There are traditional carvings surviving today that are over 500 years old.

Prominent features of Maori culture are the striking tattoos that are worn. Full-faced Moko are predominantly a male activity. Female forms of moko are usually restricted to the chin area. Today there is a renewed interest in the Moko. Skilled Maori tattoo artists have patiently learned the knowledge and skills of their ancestors. Each moko is personal and should not be copied like or confused with Kirituhi, the skin art used in Maori designs.

A traditional form of cooking called a Hangi. Heated stones are placed in the bottom of a pit. Meat, fish and vegetables are wrapped in leaves, put in baskets and lowered into the pit. The food is then covered with rocks and sprinkled with water. Finally earth is placed on top to keep in the steam. It is left for several hours. Once the pit is opened you have a lovely, moist, steam baked meal with a hint of a smoky flavor.

The Marae is a sacred open meeting area, usually in front of the meeting house ( Whare nui). This is the heart of community life. Official functions take place in the Marae.

A Pakeha (non Maori) can only enter the Marae with permission. The ceremony is usually performed by a male from the Marae. Sometimes it may be issued by high ranking females. such as a Queen. Once granted permission, the visitors are welcomed with

Haere mai, haere mai.

Come forward visitors from afar, Welcome, Welcome!