Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Two days with Maori people: treasured time in a cultural bubble

Expressive hands of a Maori elder welcome visitors and enhance a story in a village on a Waimaramamaori.com tour.
Our guide, Denise, ponders a question in a pensive
and reflective moment before a musical show. 



THE MAORI people are a proud and noble race, descending from warriors, farmers, healers, astronomers and explorers.  
The people go back as far as known New Zealand history.  In fact, the first settlers of New Zealand were the Polynesian forebears of today's proud Maori people.
No one is certain where they came from or precisely when they arrived.  Some think they originated on the Cook Islands, others think Tahiti or the Marquesas.
Denise and her cousin, and now a nephew, above, lead
demonstrations and illustrate Maori games for tourists.
The tattoo is an art
for the Maori people.
Eels are cultivated as a
crop in the Maori culture.
TODAY'S Maori carry on the cultural traditions of music, family loyalty, crafts and gardening.  Group singing and dancing, or "kapa haka," has real power. The gentle people can sound fierce in their chants, but soft as singers of the lullaby in their Polynesian sounding story-songs.
IN VISITS to two separate villages, we felt a closeness to the people we hadn't expected in just brief forays into their lives. 
Young Maori students learn the art of music
and dancing from the generations before.
Their elaborately carved war canoes are respected globally. Their artful tattoos are passed on through generations, telling vivid stories of family, loss and accomplishment.
Our two brief days with the Maori are treasured memories, highlights of our New Zealand time.
The hours with these families -- generous hosts, good cooks, with wry humor and musical talent -- will stay with us forever.
OUR FIRST guide, Denise, exhibited a warm humor and sly wit that we found typical of the Maori people.
Dressed in a beautiful fur robe -- which some day will go to the next world with a revered ancestor -- Denise told us of her people's evolution, and the most devastating thing the Europeans brought to an ancient culture.
"The musket," said Denise, "changed everything."
For while Europeans brought pigs, potatoes and other welcome critters and crops, they also brought unwelcome muskets and disease.
After a presentation which earned school credit, Maori students say farewell 
to their guests with a handshake followed by forehead and nose touching.
 More than 20,000 Maori were killed during the explorations and whaling excursions of the English and French explorers from 1769 to 1840. The "Musket Wars" and disease killed more than 20 per cent of the Maori population. But things are looking up for this ancient culture.

 NEXT UP at www.whereiscookie: Cookie gets a New Zealand tattoo, visits a world class Maori museum and a Maori village and language station.  She and friends learn to say hello and good-bye with her forehead and nose. Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us Wednesdays and weekends at www.whereiscookie.com

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