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One of the wonderful things about experiencing a new country is experiencing its rich culture. Fortunately, in New Zealand the cultural activities are abundant and the opportunity to take part is readily available to all.
Maori culture is rich in tradition, legend, and history. Throughout our country, you'll find plenty of ways to immerse yourself in Maori culture and experience the rich legacy for yourself.
A traditional Maori feast should not be missed by anyone who visits NZ. A hangi is the traditional New Zealand Māori way of cooking Kai (food).
The food, usually meats and hardy vegetables, is slowly cooked underground using heated rocks. “Putting down a hangi” involves digging a large pit in the ground and partially filling it with stones heated over a fire. The food, encased within damp sacking and cloth, is put inside wire baskets and placed in the pit. It is then covered with earth to slowly cook for several hours. The resulting meal is deliciously smoky and melts in the mouth.
This technique has been used for centuries and has been made easier and more accessible over time - there are now gas heated stainless steel machines that can be used instead of a fire, rocks and a pit. But don't be fooled: anyone who has had a traditional hangi can tell the difference between the traditional and modern methods. There is nothing quite like the real earth and fire version.
If you are keen to give it a go, many Kiwi tourist attractions and accommodation include a hangi as a part of their Maori culture offerings.
Maori Culture in Rotorua
The hub of traditional Maori culture, Rotorua is the place to visit to experience the heritage and essence of the Maori people. A geothermal wonderland; the area boasts many Maori cultural activities including the Tamaki Maori Village Experience, which provides guests with a tour around village nestled in a forest, Maori art forms, ancient rituals and traditions, as well as dancing, songs and a traditional hangi.
Another place of note is Whakarewarewa, The Living Thermal Village. Here visitors can experience the natural geothermal activity, meet the villagers who will share stories and pastimes, check out the carved Whare Tupuna, and learn about Te Reo, the native Maori language.
Anyone who has seen a rugby match that involves a New Zealand team has likely witnessed a haka. The haka is a traditional ancestral war cry or challenge from the Māori people. The dance is performed by a group, which incorporates aggressive movements and yelling in Te Reo.
The country's various rugby teams are known to perform the haka before their matches. The dance was originally performed by warriors to intimidate their opponents. A haka may also be performed to welcome important visitors or for other special occasions. If you are keen to see a haka performed live, it will be easy to find one of the many Kiwi tourist attractions that incorporate the dance into their Maori culture events.
This popular museum, located on Wellington's waterfront, is the national museum and art gallery of New Zealand. The museum is a collaboration of current and permanent exhibitions and has a significant focus on Maori culture and history.
One of the more popular permanent fixtures is the colossal squid. It is the world's largest specimen of the rare squid and weighs 495 kilograms. The History Collection includes dresses and textiles, the New Zealand Post Archive, and the Pacific Collection, which boasts around 13,000 items from the Pacific Islands. The cultural collection showcases Maori cultural treasures, photography, and Pacific artefacts.
Te Papa also contains a large collection of fossils and archaeozoology, with about 70,000 specimens of New Zealand birds, as well as amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Many of the long term exhibitions focus on New Zealand history and Māori culture with the main ethnic area displaying Te Hono ki Hawaiki marae.
New Zealand Maori have worked hard to ensure their culture and traditions stay alive and are shared with the world. Visitors will find an endless supply of stories and experiences all over the country to partake in and enjoy.
Have you experienced one of New Zealand's Maori cultural attractions? If so, we'd love to hear about your experience!