The Maori are the New Zealand‘s indigenous people, whose ancestors arrived from Polynesia in the 1300s. Over the period of a few centuries, the language and traditions of the Polynesian settlers evolved into a new and unique culture.
According to the oral traditions of the Maori people, the Maori ancestors came to the land of Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand) from the legendary land of Hawaiki by making an epic voyage on the wakas (canoes). The Maori believe Hawaiki is their spiritual homeland where the first people were born and where their spirits return when they die.
Although the Maori did not have a writing system, they kept their culture alive through stories that were passed through generations via oral tradition. They expressed themselves through weaving, carving, and performing arts known as kapa haka.
The image below shows a beautifully carved waka taua (war canoe) known as Te Arawai (pathway through the water), which was built in 1980 as part of the centenary celebrations of Rotorua.
Te Arawai is a 60 feet long canoe that was built by hollowing out the log of a Totara tree. Found only in the forests of New Zealand, the Totaras are canopy trees that live for hundreds of years and grow up to a height of 100 feet.
Pikirangi Maori Village
Pikirangi is a reconstructed Maori village, named after a Maori tribal chief who won many battles against the neighboring tribes. His descendants still live in the area. The village shows how Maori lived as a community before the Europeans arrived.
Wharepuni – A Communal Sleeping House
The image below shows the model of a wharepuni, a communal sleeping house. The Maori built wharepunis as guesthouses, some with underground tunnels for guests to escape in case of an enemy attack.
A Maori House
The image below shows three beautiful structures at Te Puia in Rotorua, New Zealand. At the center is Te Aronui-a-Rua, a finely carved Maori meeting house. On the left is Hatupatu, a Maori house of learning and on the right is Pataka, an elevated storage house.
Hatupatu – A House of Learning
Named after Hatupatu, a Maori ancestor who was chased by a magical bird woman to the Te Whakarewarewa Valley, this beautifully decorated structure is a traditional house of learning (a whare runanga).
Hatupatu is the modern equivalent of a school or university where knowledge – includes Maori history, genealogy, and protocols – was transferred to the next generation.
Te Aronui-a-Rua – A Carved Meeting House
Te Aronui-a-Rua is a finely carved meeting house. The image shows its hall with a stage used for performing Maori cultural shows, including storytelling through song and dance. It was carved by the trainees and graduates of New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI).
Pataka – An Elevated Storehouse
The finely carved structure shown in the image is an elevated storehouse known as Pataka. The Maori used such structures to store food and other items. It is elevated to protect the food stored there from rats.
Hangi – Traditional Maori Cooking
Some items of the meal shown in the image are cooked by the Hangi method, which is a traditional Maori way of cooking. The reddish looking item is kumara, a sweet potato like vegetable brought to New Zealand by the Maori settlers.
In the Hangi way of cooking, the food is placed in a pit and is surrounded by heated stones. The heat from the stones cooks the food. It takes about three to four hours to cook a Hangi meal. The Hangi method is used for cooking meat, fish, and vegetables.
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