Hidden beneath New Zealand’s very westernised society lies its strong Maori culture. The ancient Maori tribe influences are still very much prominent in today’s society and, being the culture craver I am, I was desperate to learn a bit more about this unique culture. Therefore, I jumped at the chance to spend a night in Tamaki Maori village to learn more about the history behind the Maori people as well as, their customs and traditions.
When you think of Maori tribes, many people envision an abundance of tribal tattoos, the iconic Haka dance and people pulling funny faces however, there is a lot more history and meaning behind these boisterous facades…
When we first arrived at the tribal village, we were informed that we needed to assign a member of our group as chief for our ‘informal’ welcoming (the formal welcoming was to come later). When one Maori tribe enters another tribes area, they must be welcomed into their home in the traditional Maori way to ensure they come in peace and not for war – we also had to follow this custom.
After our chief had recited the countries we were from, nose kissed (hongi) the tribe members guiding us through the process (this is their equivalent of a handshake) and we had all sung a song for them (we chose twinkle twinkle little star… you’d be surprised how hard it is to find a universal song, which everyone knows…), we were officially allowed into their complex.
We were then guided into the dining room for afternoon tea. Stuffed to the brim with delicious cakes, biscuits, cream and jam, we were shown to our humble abode for the evening. A luxury hut lined with squishy beds, wooden carvings and intricate paintings, it oozed Maori character.
Once we had settled in, our guides talked us through the design of our hut. As there were no means of writing in ancient times, the Maori’s represented stories through carvings, tattoos and metaphors.
The carving placed in the centre of the opening of our hut with its ‘arms’ wide open symbolised the chief of the tribe welcoming his guests into his home. Whilst the red, black and white lines down the centre and sides of the inside of the hut depict his ‘ribs’ – meaning whenever somebody enters the hut, they bring him to life.
After learning some more about the mythical Maori metaphors, we gathered to learn a Maori song to perform that evening after dinner…
The clock struck 7.15pm and it was time for our formal welcoming. The chiefs of each group lined up awaiting the arrival of the tribe whilst the rest of us looked on in anticipation. We had been told on multiple occasion NOT TO LAUGH at the faces the tribe members pull during the ceremony as it is seen as a sign of disrespect.
The sound of horns filled the air as the tribe rowed up alongside the entrance to the village. Bounding around, making noise and pulling faces, they attempted to scare and intimidate the chiefs.
Luckily they all kept a straight face!!
Once the ceremony was complete, we headed into the village to give a spot of Maori dancing a go before entering the dining hall for our Maori hangi (feast).
And what a feast it was… lamb and chicken cooked in an earth oven, fish, mussels, stuffing, kumara (NZ’s sweet potato), mint sauce, vegetable, it felt like Christmas come early.
We ended our night sipping on Tamaki’s own Pinot Gris in a steaming hot tub.
The Maori village was an educating and insightful experience, which I would definitely recommend to anyone visiting Rotorua. Although the village is not actually where the Maori’s now live, it does give you a great idea of how life would have been for them in the ‘olden days’ and educates you in detail about their traditions.
Thanks Tamaki for a fab stay!
**N.B. This was not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own**