Friday, November 19, 2010

A Māori welcome to New Zealand

We had a pretty good 7-day passage over what can be a nasty trip.  We had two bumpy days followed by two wonderful days of flat seas and no winds and three days that were a mix of average to low seas as we neared the coast.  Several boats behind us saw 50 knots of wind, 20 foot seas and arrived with shredded sails, broken rudders and engines and salty boats.

We have spent the last two weeks in a marina and have found this to be a delightful place.  The green rolling hills remind us of northwestern Connecticut and western Massachusetts.  The temperatures are 50F in the morning and 75F during the days and very comfortable.  This is Spring on this side of the globe and in just the time we have been here it is getting warmer.  All the crew are enjoying snuggling under blankets at night and wearing blue jeans, socks and sneakers.  The captain had not worn socks for over 2 years!

The people are very friendly and we can buy almost anything we need for the boat.  The sales manager of the local chandlery loaned me his car on several days to drive around to find things and do some provisioning.  I gassed up his car but he asked for nothing in return.  We have fixed most of our broken stuff and are pushing off the dock tomorrow for some Bay of Island cruising.

Since we have good internet here, I’ll post some highlights about the Māori.  There is so much to see and explore, I’m sure we will post more in the coming weeks.

The Māori people are the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and first arrived here in waka hourua (voyaging canoes) from their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki over 1000 years ago. Today, Māori make up over 14 percent of the population. Their language and culture has a major impact on all facets of New Zealand life. 

Māori culture is a rich and varied one, and includes traditional and contemporary arts. Traditional arts such as carving, weaving, kapa haka (group performance), whaikorero (oratory) and moko (tattoo) are practised throughout the country. Practitioners following in the footsteps of their tipuna (ancestors) replicate the techniques used hundreds of years ago, yet also develop exciting new techniques and forms. Today Māori culture also includes art, film, television, poetry, theatre, and hip-hop.

Māori is an oral culture rich with stories and legends. The Māori creation story describes the world being formed by the violent separation of Ranginui, the Sky Father, and Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, by their children. Many Māori carvings and artworks graphically depict this struggle.

The creation of New Zealand is described by the legend of Maui. This god managed, among other things, to harness the sun in order to make the days longer. However, his biggest claim to fame was his fishing up of the North Island, which is described as Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui). A look at an aerial map of the North Island will show how closely it resembles a fish. Māori believe the far north to be the tail of the fish and Wellington Harbour the mouth. Māori describe the South Island as Maui’s waka (canoe) and Stewart Island (Rakiura) as his punga (anchor).

Being a tribal Polynesian people, Māori have a unique protocol. The best place to observe it is on a marae (Māori meeting grounds).   We went to the most important marae in New Zealand…the The Waitangi Treaty House.  It was here on February 6th, 1840, that the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed between Maori and the British Crown.
A powhiri (formal welcome) at a marae begins with wero (challenge) A warrior from the tangata whenua (hosts) will challenge the manuhiri (guests). He may carry a spear (taiaha) then lay down a token (often a small branch) that the manuhiri will pick up to show they come in peace. Some kuia (women) from the tangata whenua (hosts) will perform a karanga (call/chant) to the manuhiri. Women from the manuhiri will then respond as they move onto the marae in front of their men.
Once inside the wharenui (meeting house) on the marae, mihimihi (greetings) and whaikorero (speeches) are made. To reinforce the good wishes of the speeches, waiata (songs) may be sung. It is usual for the manuhiri then present a koha (gift) to the tangata whenua after greeting the hosts with a hongi — the ceremonial touching of noses. After the powhiri, kai (food) may be shared.

Māori used chants, song, and dance to record their history, to convey feelings, to express ideas, to tell stories, to celebrate important events, and to protest and persuade. Kapa haka, which combines movement, song, and chant, forms an integral part of Māori culture and ways of life. It plays a critical role within whānau (family) and iwi (tribal) customs and lifestyle, including ceremonial events such as pōwhiri (welcoming of visitors) and tangihanga (funerals).

Kapa haka is useful for developing coordination and skills in manipulating props (for example, weapons). Many of the dance movements involve gestures of the hands, arms, and face and originate from warrior training or images of nature (for example, the movement of wiri originated from the shimmer of heat on the land).

"Haka" is a Maori war dance. The words are chanted loudly in a menacing way accompanied by arm actions and foot stamping. A haka was traditionally performed before charging into battle.

From earliest times, the haka has inspired and energised generations of Maori in both peace and war. The haka was part of the Maori warrior's conditioning for war and battle. There are many types of haka however some were specifically intended for battle. Today the haka is an aspect of the Maori culture of New Zealand that has become very much a national expression of New Zealand identity.

For your enjoyment, a video of the powhiri, the haka and the traditional woman’s dance is below.  The fluttering hands simulated rising heat, a higher spirit and alertness.  I found that to be a little disturbing and particularly during the singing of beautiful love ballads.

The Māori’s tattoo their face as a sign of identity. The Māori term for tattoo is Ta Moko. Each Moko tells a unique story.
For men, the Moko showed their rank, their status and their ferocity. The which is generally divided into eight sections :
1. Ngakaipikirau (rank). The center forehead area
2. Ngunga (position). Around the brows
3. Uirere (hapu rank). The eyes and nose area
4. Uma (first or second marriage). The temples
5. Raurau (signature). The area under the nose
6. Taiohou (work). The cheek area
7. Wairua (mana). The chin
8. Taitoto (birth status). The jaw

Ancestry is indicated on each side of the face. The left side is generally (but not always, depending on the tribe) the father's side, while the right hand side indicates the mother's ancestry. If one side of a person's ancestry was not of rank, that side of the face would have no Moko design.

Come along, Dear reader, as we wander New Zealand for the next five months and enjoy what this county has to offer.

Kia ora —(goodbye)


Anonymous said...

We tell everyone we meet about your marvelous blog. I'm sure there is a growing army of readers who fail to post a comment such as my wife and I who have been with you from day one. We are especially looking forward to the next five months as you explore New Zealand, as we will vicariously be your traveling companions.

Linda and Corey said...

Hey guys! Still following your travels and enjoying seeing it through your eyes. Wish we could be there with you! Met someone the other day who has a friend (with twin 11-yr old girls) who was in Fiji traveling to New Zealand on a Lord Nelson sail boat. Didn't get the name of the vessel, but if there are kids on board figured who may have met them. Small world, huh? Stay safe, enjoy exploring for 5 months and keeping updating the blog. There are alot of us out here who are living vicariously through you.

Joseph Lawler said...

Wow - I just saw your new family picture. Who is that tall young lady in the middle, and what did you do with little Emily?

Uncle Joe