The Māori people, who arrived in what they call Aotearoa in 1300 or so, have since the 1600s been sharing the islands with New Zealanders of Euro-extraction, for example my wife and children. They and their culture are definitely part of the package a tourist like myself sees and photographs.
I have no information or insights to offer beyond what you can read online, so you’re not going to learn anything about these people here, aside from what some of them and their works of art look like.
It’s interesting that they are so tourist-visible compared to my own country’s aboriginal peoples; you could easily spend a couple of weeks in Canada and your only contact would be place-names and the occasional totem pole. Yes, this is a problem.
One of our first stops in Auckland was at the big War Memorial museum, which has loads of Māori stuff; this impressed me the most.
It’s the interior of a meeting house, being restored because at some point some moron painted all that great carving in flat red. So there are a couple of people in there removing it and putting back the original colors. Here’s a close-up.
Just being in there is a special feeling.
The museum with the meeting room offered a “Māori cultural performance”; most of the audience when we attended was a kindergarten class, and the show was more or less pitched at that level. There was some cool dancing and singing, though.
The Regatta · The full name, brace yourself, is the Turangawaewae Regatta at Ngaruawahia. I’ve noticed that Kiwis of all colors seem to effortlessly remember and rattle off these megapolsyllabic toponyms.
Māoris make drop-dead cool straw hats out of what New Zealanders call “flax”, and they were for sale at the regatta, but I couldn’t find one that fit.
Overall, it was awesome. The food was tasty, the show was great, and everyone was so nice and friendly, out to have a good time. Those wakas are wonderful.
These are war canoes, paddled therefore by warriors, but loading those warriors up is a highly complex logistical operation.
The regatta centerpiece of course is the waka procession and salutes. These guys have been practising the hell out of this for a long, long, time, and it shows.
I shouldn’t leave out the song-and dance troupes, who really gave it their all.
If you’re in Aotearoa in March, I totally recommend this event.
Filthy statues · Hamilton is a city about a third of the way down the North Island. We stayed there because it was near a bunch of stuff we wanted to see (including the Regatta). It’s not a terribly exciting place, but on the other hand it’s got the Hamilton Gardens and let me tell you, I’ve been to a few of the world’s most famous gardens and Hamilton’s is right up there; it won a Garden of the Year award in 2014.
Anyhow, they have lots of themed mini-gardens there, and one of them is Māori, and the best thing about it is the statuary.
I was crushed when I came away and found that my photos had mostly failed to capture the extreme, cheery obscenity of some of the carving. There’s a little bit of it visible in the one below, but somehow I missed the rows of fierce little guys grasping their chin-high phalli in their firm manly fists.
Obviously, there are ethnic tensions. I found myself listening to some fairly pointed remarks on the subject, but since I come from another hemisphere, eleven thousand km away, I’m not gonna say anything more than that. I’d like to understand more. But I came away with really warm feelings about the people living on these islands, whatever they call them.