New Zealand’s Maori culture emerged from Polynesian migrations that began around 700 years ago. Our European history began about 500 years later. Today, our place names, art, architecture and stories reflect who we are, where we came from and how we’ve shaped our society.
While heritage sites and cultural experiences can be found throughout the country, some places have special significance. In Waitangi you can learn about the treaty that changed the course of New Zealand history forever. Central Otago still displays relics of the gold rush, when thousands of people flocked to the region in search of riches. And in Napier you’ll see a wealth of fabulous Art Deco architecture, which only materialised because the city was almost entirely destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1931.
There are stories to discover wherever you travel, even in the tiniest towns. Let your curiosity give you the confidence to ask questions about pa sites, buildings, monuments and statues - we’re friendly people and there’s always time for a chat.
New Zealand has a unique and dynamic culture. The culture of its indigenous Maori people affects the language, the arts, and even the accents of all New Zealanders. Their place in the South Pacific and their love of the outdoors, sport, and the arts make New Zealanders and their culture unique in the world.
The Maori 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, Maori make up over 14 percent of the population. Their language and culture has a major impact on all facets of New Zealand life.
RICH AND VARIED
Maori 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 practiced 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 Maori culture also includes art, film, television, poetry, theatre, and hip-hop.
TE REO MAORI - THE MAORI LANGUAGE
The visitor to New Zealand will become immediately aware of the Maori language as the vast majority of place names are of Maori origin. At first, visitors may be puzzled by the seemingly impossible- to-pronounce names. In fact, Maori has a logical structure, and, unlike English, has very consistent rules of pronunciation.
How Do You Say Onehunga, Whangamomona, Kahikatea, and Nguru?
Maori consists of five vowel sounds: a e i o u (‘a’ as in ‘car’, ‘e’ as in ‘egg’, ‘i’ like the ‘ee’ in ‘tee’, ‘o’ as in ‘four’, ‘u’ like an ‘o’ in ‘to’). There are eight consonants in Maori similar to those in English — ‘h’, ‘k’, ‘m’, ‘n’, ‘p’, ‘r’,‘t’, and ‘w’. There are also two different consonants — ‘wh’ and ‘ng’. Many Maori pronounce the ‘wh’ sound similar to our ‘f’. The ‘ng’ is similar to our own ‘ng’ sound in a word like ‘sing’, except that in Maori, words can start with ‘ng’.
Kia ora — Hello
Kia ora tatou — Hello everyone
Tena koe — Greetings to you (said to one person)
Tena koutou — Greeting to you all
Haere mai — Welcome
Nau mai — Welcome
Kei te pehea koe? — How’s it going?
Kei te pai — Good
Tino pai — Really good
Haere ra — Farewell
Ka kite ano — Until I see you again (Bye)
Hei konei ra — See you later
STORIES AND LEGENDS
Maori is an oral culture rich with stories and legends. The Maori 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 Maori carvings and artworks graphically depict this struggle.
FISHING UP AN ISLAND
The creation of New Zealand is described by the legend of Maui. This god was a cheeky trickster who 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. Mâori believe the far north to be the tail of the fish and Wellington Harbour the mouth. Maori describe the South Island as Maui’s waka (canoe) and Stewart Island (Rakiura) as his punga (anchor).