If you are thinking of a trip to New Zealand, don't forget to pay attention to these Māori traditions that will give you a new understanding and appreciation of this fascinating country and culture. The Māori have brought a culture that is now an essential part of the country's national identity. One of the best ways to experience and get an excellent insight into this ancient culture is to experience it yourself. Why don't we dig a little deeper to learn more about what you may not know about Māori culture?
#1. Haka - ancient Māori war dance
Haka is a traditional Māori war dance used before the battle to declare the power of Māori warriors. The action-packed dance is a show of strength and pride, including powerful stomps of the feet, rhythmic slaps on the body and sticking out of the tongue with a wild gaze.
Today, haka are still used in Māori ceremonies and celebrations to honor guests and show the importance of the occasion. You may have seen a haka performed by New Zealand's All Blacks before a rugby match, haven't you? Perhaps you will agree that it is a scary sight!
#2. Hongi - the traditional Māori greeting
Hongi is a traditional greeting made by pressing the nose and forehead into others. This unusual greeting has a profound meaning that it signifies the blend of two souls, which makes this a gesture full of respect for one person and the other. The hongi is a common practice when welcoming visitors to the Māori grounds, as well as in traditional ceremonies. Don't be scared by the close interaction and use it as a great way to break the ice and get to know people.
#3. Powhiri - Māori welcome
Pōwhiri or welcome ceremonies provide a special opportunity to experience Māori traditions in action. Pōwhiri takes visitors to the meeting grounds in the center of the Maori community, the meeting place (marae) or tribe (iwi). A Pōwhiri often begins with three warriors challenging guests to see if they come to their territory in peace.
Next, an older woman from the host side will perform a Karanga (call) and leads visitors towards them. Presentations, waiata (traditional songs) and speeches often followed, and finally, Pōwhiri ended with the hongi as mentioned above. After Pōwhiri, Kai (food) will be shared, consistent with the tradition of manaakitanga Māori or hospitality.
#4. Ta Moko - traditional tattoos
Ta Moko is the name of the Māori tattoo and an essential cultural representation of heritage, personal rank, and wisdom. The design of each Ta moko is unique to the wearer. Traditionally, the tattoos identified the Māori who they are by giving information about human lineage and social position. Now, these tattoos are most often worn on the face, bottoms, and thighs for men, and on the lips and chin for women. The Māori is very proud of each of their tattoos, and the Ta Moko is an expression of commitment and respect.
#5. Te Reo Māori - the language
Maori language or "te reo Maori" is considered a national treasure. But before the first Europeans appeared in the 17th century, all stories were word-of-mouth in the Māori tribes or depicted in carved works. All legends were described charmingly. This is why the Māori is one of the best storytellers in the world.
Currently, in the middle of a revival, the language is finding its way back to school with its dedicated week of celebration. The language is being revived, with initiatives such as Māori Language Week, Māori language schools (from pre-school through to high school) and Māori language television stations all play a role in developing Te Reo.
#6. Hangi - the traditional cooking method
The word hangi is easily confused with the hongi, but they have different meanings. Hangi refers to the method of cooking traditional Māori food and is often reserved for special occasions. The method of creating the perfect Hangi has been perfected for many years and passed from generation to generation. Meat, fish, chicken or root vegetables are cooked slowly in a digging hole into the ground, on hot rocks, both should burn for a long time. This results in a smokey aroma, which makes the food taste delicious.
Māori culture is a big part of New Zealand's identity, so it is important to respect, preserve and promote it. Have you ever encountered the Māori culture? It's captivating, right?