One of the most wonderful cultures, where the belief from the people is based on respect and guardianship for nature and the world around us. From the dirt to the trees, the animals to the rivers there is a story, a god and belief behind them all, but most importantly a culture which existed even before Autorua (Mauri for New Zealand) was named. Nothing is taken or removed from the land before spiritual guidance and protection is sought.
The Maori way comes from the ancestors of the Polynesian people who sailed across the oceans to explore and found the Land of the Long White Cloud along the horizon around . Due to its natural resources of water, wood and geothermal pools.
The history of the Tamaki people , comes from the different tribes found around New Zealand, but Tamaki is the most well known with a 30 year history or educating, welcoming and
The whole expereince of being welcomed into the tribe is a long but beautiful ceremony, going back to the start of teh Maori culture when other tribes would visit or fight for land. The land they owned or claimed would be small so to prevent clashes they would firstly perform the intimidating Haka dance or some form of it. The next would be to then perform their own song or welcoming entertainment as a new tribe (OUR TRIBE) picked Hey Baby and re worked it to be Hey Kiwi – Success! The next step is to place a branch, leaf or a natural form on the floor in front of the tribe to show respect, peace and no fighting. At this point the warrior chief would pick it up to show understanding and equality. The final is the well known greeting ritual (hongi), men and women do this when welcoming family, friends and new friends they touch noses twice, once for welcome, twice for a blessing. It was a beautiful scene to watch.
One of the most moving parts of staying within the village over night is when you are welcomed into the ancestral houses (wharenui). These are in memory of certain elders of the tribe, in memory of ones that have past and in response are decorated by different carvings, natural shapes and gods which are found around the entrance arches. The one I was privileged to stay in was the Mauri God of the Ocean, which had waves, fishes and other sea creatures carved into the wood. The central wood and columns within the cabin represents the spine and ribs of the god, which protects the organs inside of it quite literally. Everything has a deep meaning and completely makes sense.
The beds were so comfy, and even sharing a room with 20 other people was so much fun, getting to know them better and the hosts who looked after us had us jumping all over the place. Each wall had different paintings of different gods within the houses too, which were introduced to us individually with Mauri myths and legends.
A few games we played when experience the Tamaki Mauri culture, like sticks (tī rākau), where you have to try and save the stick from hitting the floor, another one is with smaller sticks (tītī tourea) and you must catch them when thrown. The more you played the more competitive (and frustrated) we got!
A very personal and unique accessory that every Mauri family and member wears is their own personal shape, creature or design. With each one having a different meaning, from the elements, animals or characteristic. Some are huge, some are smaller but the most famous shape is the Mauri Hook (hei matau), which represents a deep respect for the ocean, but also good luck, fertility and prosperity. The other shape is the Koru (fern shape) which is very relevant to the New Zealand terrain, with the unferling fern, representing peace, tranquility, personal growth, positive change, new life and harmony.
The Pounamu green Stones are one of the sacred materials the Mauri value when creating their accessories. A taonga (treasure) which is found mainy within the South Island of New zealand in rivers and come in different tones of green. It is very precious to the Mauri people.
I got the opportunity to create my own necklace, with so many different shapes and different cuts of the precious stone it was hard to pick one. I ended up with a tear/ rain drop shaped one which I created myself, which apparently has the meaning of comfort and caring for people. It represents shared emotions, empathy, confidence, solidarity, reassurance and is normally worn in line with the heart. In all this one took around an hour to do but the more intimate hooks and larger objects which they make can take weeks.
The most famous dance within the Mauri culture, has become a world wide phenomenon especially with pre rugby games. The Haka was once a war dance, to defend against rival tribes, and to intimidate possible enemies. It is made up of powerful actions, loud chanting in Mauri language and above all the disturbing facial impressions. What I learnt while in the Tamaki village is that only men are actually allowed to perform it due to superstition and also traditionally the warriors would be the ones to perform it. Quite emotional and intimidating to watch even now with the full tribal dress and weapons.
The village we were allowed to see was the showcase of the traditional maori people, they like to keep their houses private, but the set ups showed us weapons, carvings, dancing, instruments and everything you would like to know about those stunning meaningful tattoos (Pakati).
The women are seen as much a part of the community as the men, with important roles to play which may be seen as traditional and old fashioned but they are respected by the men, and one of the best sayings they said to me was ‘If you loose a woman, you loose a whole generation’, okay I want a Maori husband! They cook, clean, raise the children, but also have important roles in the peace of the village and neighbouring villages.
The mens main role is warrior, with the tattoos and weapons to prove this, protect the village, their families and their history. Now the warrior costumes, weapons and body art is normally for sacred days and ceremonies but still its a fine sight to see when they all start walking upto you. They respect their women, and also for balance and peace they would normally marry within another tribe.
Singing and Music
The Mauri people have a lot of songs which are passed down through the family and community. During the afternoon we learned a small song to later perform in front of the whole party later tonight.
A guiter, a board and just our voices, we learnt a few of the words each time becoming more confident, which then involved the addition of some arm movements to match them. It was a softer, shorter and friendlier type of performance compared to the Haka. We later performed this in front of the whole hall after food, much to the embarrassment of my whole group.
If there is one thing I am taking away is firstly any left overs from the Banquette we had from the Tamaki Village. The second is the tastes and variety of the Maori cuisine. You are taken to the back of the main buffet welcoming hall, and shown the authentic cooking within the ground (Hangi) which Maori culture goes back centuries. Stones are heated on the fire until white hot, then food is placed on top to cook, covered with leaves to then be placed under the ground in dug out cylinders to steam cook the food. Fish, Chicken and Vegetables are the main staples of the Maori food which is served as a buffet. From the sweet potatoe to the perfectly cooked fish it was delicious!!
Drinks and Hot tubs
The overnight experience, meant we could relax and un wind after our performance and tonne of food we had eating. Something which has been added to teh Tamaki village is a bar and hot tubs to entertain the guests after hours. Relax and just talk with the hosts who were now like friends. It was the perfect end to an incredible insite into this culture.
Seeing the next generation so passionate about keeping their history alive, and keeping teh values of their ancestors was incredible. We also got taught about the tattoos which a lot of the women and men have
I really recommend visiting one village within New Zealand to really understand the real rich culture of the land. It makes you understand just how important and beautiful New Zealand, with understanding the nature of its raw history and beginnings. The Tamaki Village is one of the top 10 experiences in the world so you know it will be worth it!
Link to contact – https://www.tamakimaorivillage.co.nz/