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Table of Contents:

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Where We Live
Where We Came From
Our Beliefs
Our Art
Traditional Tattoos - Te Moko
Traditional Warrior Dance - Haka
Historical Artefacts

Where We Live:



New Zealand is situated in the South Pacific ocean, between latitude 34'S and 47'S. The country runs roughly north-south with mountain ranges down much of its length. Its two main islands (North and South) cover 266,200 sq km (103,735 sq miles), about the size of Japan or California and slightly larger than Great Britain.

The north of New Zealand is subtropical and the south temperate. The warmest months are December, January and February, and the coldest June, July and August.
In summer, the average maximum temperature ranges between 20-30ºC and in winter between 10-15ºC.

From here.

Where We Came From:

The Story of the Creation
In the beginning there was no sky, no sea, no earth and no Gods. There was only darkness, only Te Kore, the Nothingness. The very beginning was made from nothing. From this nothingness, the primal parents of the Māori came, Papatuanuku, the Earth mother, and Ranginui, the Sky father.

Papatuanuku and Ranginui came together, embracing in the darkness, and had 70 male children. These offspring became the gods of the Māori. However, the children of Papatuanuku and Ranginui were locked in their parents embrace, in eternal darkness, and yearned to see some light. They eventually decided that their parents should be separated, and had a meeting to decide what should be done.

They considered for a long time - should Rangi and Papa be killed? Or shall they be forced to separate?

Finally, Tumatauenga, the god of War, said "Let us kill our parents". However, Tane-Mahuta, the god of man and forests, and all which inhabits the forests, thought that Rangi and Papa should be separated. He thought that Ranginui should go up above, to the sky, and that Papatuanuku should should go below, to dwell on earth. All the children, including Tu, the God of War, agreed with Tane.
Tawhiri Matea, the god of winds and storms was the only child who did not wish for his parents to be separated. He feared that his kingdom would be overthrown. One by one the children tried to separate their parents. Rongomatane, the god and father of cultivated foods, tried without success. Haumia Tiketike, god of uncultivated food also tried.

Then it was the turn of Tangaroa, the god of the sea, and Tumatauenga, the god of war, but neither Tangaroa nor Tumatauenga could separate their parents.
Lastly Tane-Mahuta rose. Strong as the kauri tree, he placed his shoulders against his mother Papatuanuku and his feet against his father Ranginui, and he pushed hard, for a very long time, straining and heaving all the while. Rangi and Papa cried in pain, asking their sons" why do you wish to destroy our love?"
After a long time Tane finally managed to separate Rangi and Papa, and for the first time the children saw the light of day (ao Marama) come streaming in. Once this happened, Tawhiri Matea, the god of winds and storms, and who had been against the separation of his parents, left for the sky to join his father.
The turbulent winds and storms on earth are caused by Tawhiri Matea, in revenge for this brother's acts.

Now that the separation of Papatuanuku and Ranginui was complete, and there was a sky and an earth. However, there was just one missing element, and Tane decided to create a female. From an area named Kura-waka Tane took some clay, and modeled it into a woman. He then breathed life into it, and created Hine-ahu-one - the earth formed maiden.

Tane and Hine had a beautiful daughter called Hinetitama. When Hinetitama grew, she had daughters to Tane. One day Hinetitama asked Tane who her father was, and on discovering that Tane was the father of her children, she fled with shame into the night, to a place called Rarohenga, the underworld. From then on she became known as Hine-nui-te-po, the goddess of the night.

Our Beliefs:

Though some of their war tactics have been savage, the Maori are known as a spiritual people who incorporate beliefs and ritual into everyday life. Although some of the beliefs and traditions have been diluted due to outside influence over the last 150 to 200 years, many are still revered and commonly practiced. For example, Maori believe that ancestors and supernatural beings are ever-present and able to help the tribe in times of need. Another of the group's foremost beliefs is that everything and everyone are connected and therefore a part of their whakapapa (genealogy). Whakapapa includes genealogies of spiritual and mythological significance, as well as information about the person's tribe and the land he or she lives on. In short, whakapapa tells the story of each person's spiritual and physical existence, traditionally beginning with the arrival of ancestors in canoes and progressing to present-day. The Maori strongly believe future mistakes can only be avoided by acknowledging the errors of the past. The act of reciting whakapapa helps accomplish this noble feat by continually reminding them of past mistakes.
The Maori also emphasize the importance of mana (honor, prestige, influence, authority, power). They believe in three forms of mana:
1) Mana achieved by birth. This mana comes from the person's whakapapa, and can be attributed to the rank or status of descendents.
2) Mana given by other people. This is more easily understood as recognition for good deeds. Humbleness is particularly appreciated among the Maori.
3) Mana of the group. Outsiders who visit or stay with a group influence this type of mana. Mana is increased if they pass along the word that the group treated them well during a stay.
The Maori also believe that a person's mana can be affected by korero (the spoken word). The Maori primarily existed as an oral culture before Europeans showed up. History traditionally has been recorded through a very sophisticated game of "telephone," in which one person relays information orally to another, and another, and so on. Although many people look down on this form of historical note taking, the Maori maintain that the position of historian is obtained only after many years of training, during which the person's memory is trained to remember verbatim the various history, genealogies and traditions.
Although the Maori did not establish a standard written language until after the Europeans arrived, they were able to communicate by "reading" wooden carvings. Some painted wooden carvings that tell stories of historical significance date back more than 500 years and are read easily with a little help. Stories vary depending on the type of head, surface patterns and other patterns carved into the wood [source:]. Often, Maori carvings are compared to Native American totem poles.
Other than carving, the Maori have a history rich in art, including music, bone carving, painting, weaving and drawing. The group is dedicated to the preservation of these art forms as authentic Maori creations. Dance is also integral to the Maori. Maori dance is known as haka, and the idea is that the dancer moves in such a way that the entire body should convey exultation, defiance, contempt, challenge and welcome. A true haka depicts tremendous power and ferocity.
From here.

Our Art:




Ask your teacher to override Youtube to access this clip. It's a video of photos of a bunch of different aspects of Maori culture, especially art:

Traditional Tattoos - Te Moko:





According to archaeological evidence, tattooing came to New Zealand from Eastern Polynesian culture.

The bone chisels used for tattooing can be found in archaeological sites of various ages in New Zealand, as well as in some early Eastern Polynesian sites. Although the Māori practiced tattooing, there is no evidence that the Moriori people did.

In New Zealand, It is in the early sites that the widest chisel blades are found, and this lends evidence to the theory that there was possibly a preference towards rectilinear tattoo patterns in earlier times.

The head was considered the most sacred part of the body, and because tattooing caused blood to run the tattoo craftsmen, or "tohunga-ta-oko", were very tapu persons. All high-ranking Māori were tattooed, and those who went without tattoos were seen as persons of no social status.

Tattooing commenced at puberty, accompanied by many rites and rituals. In addition to making a warrior attractive to women, the tattoo practice marked both rites of passage and important events in a person's life.

There were certain prohibitions during the tattooing process, and for the facial tattoo in particular, eating of solid foods were prohibited. In order to overcome this, liquid food and water was drained into a wooden funnel, to ensure that no contaminating product came into contact with the swollen skin. This was also the only way the tattooed person could eat until his or her wounds healed.

The full faced tattoo was very time consuming, and a good tattoo craftsman would carefully study a person's bone structure before commencing his art.
From here.

Traditional Warrior Dance - Haka:

There were quite a number of different types of haka performed in pre-European times, depending on the occasion. There were hakas of song and joy, and warlike hakas of "utu", performed before going into battle.
There were two types of war haka - one performed without weapons, usually to express public or private feelings, known as the "haka taparahi", and the war haka with weapons, the "peruperu". The "peruperu" was traditionally performed before going into battle. It was to invoke Tumatauenga, the god of war, and warned the enemy of the fate awaiting him. It involved fierce facial expressions and grimaces, poking out of the tongue, eye bulging, grunts and cries, and the waving of war weapons.

Before actually going into battle, the warriors would generally assemble together. The warrior leading the "taua", or war party, would move into the centre of the men and cry.

At this call, the warriors would prepare for the "peruperu" haka, during which the tribal elders would make a careful inspection during the dance. If the haka was not performed in total unity, this could be taken as an omen of disaster for the battle to come.
During the actual haka before battle the dancing warriors would eyeball the enemy. Sometimes this would be to stress a particular action during the haka, such as a slicing movement with the arm to indicate the fate awaiting the enemy. The warriors very often went into battle naked, apart from a plaited flax belt around the waist, and which was used for attaching short clubs.
The haka may also be used to tell of great feats, or danced as a special welcome before a high-ranking guest. A haka can also express grievance, or, in earlier times, could be addressing a prayer to one of the ancient Māori Gods.
The haka generally accompanies each cultural performance today.

Here is a mixed (men and women) University group performing a haka.

The New Zealand rugby team, The All Blacks, performs a modified haka at their games:


Wars were a constant feature of Maori life; conflicts over land and insults of every description were causes of war. The defeated party in any way was under an obligation, if it wished to restore its mana, to avenge its humiliation, so war was never finished with. Even after European settlement wars continued; indeed they became greatly intensified through the introduction of muskets. The Maori people thus developed a very warlike spirit; also they developed to a high degree a method of warfare suitable to the couutry and to the weapons they possessed. Much has been written about the valour and chivalry of the Maori warrior, but we must be cautions not to believe too much of this, for the first aim of warfare is to win; it would have been impossible in the hard world of the ancient Maori to be like the chivalrous knights of romance and still survive.
From here.

Historical Artefacts:


Matau (fish hook)

Title / object name Matau (fish hook)
Medium Summary wood, bone, fibre
Materials bone, wood, cord
127 (Length) x 100 (Width/Depth) mm
Classification fishhooks
Technique woodcarving
Registration Number OL000105
Credit Line
Oldman Collection. Gift of the New Zealand Government, 1992

This large, composite fish hook has a curved wooden shank fashioned from a native hardwood sapling that was carefully restrained so that it would grow into the required shape.
An intricate object
The underside of the shank has been notched to give it a serrated edge. The shaft has been adorned with a small, well-carved head, to which a length of cord (aho) is attached. The barb is made from bone, probably albatross bone, and has been carefully worked into a finely serrated point. It has been bound to the shank with muka (flax fibre) cord, with small strips of raupo leaf inserted in-between to help set the binding.

From here.


Mere pounamu (nephrite weapon)

Title / object name Mere pounamu (nephrite weapon)
Materials inanga
260 (Length) x 75 (Width) x 16.5 (Depth) mm
Classification clubs, edged weapons, Mere pounamu
Technique heating, lapidary, drillwork
Registration Number ME002121
Credit Line
Gift of W Leo Buller, 1911
From here.


Poha Titi

Title / object name Poha Titi
Ashwell, Harold
Materials bark, harakeke, kelp
Classification bags
Registration Number ME015916

Unique customs
South island tribes used the poha titi as a unique way of preserving and storing titi (muttonbirds). This poha has been made from a kelp bag that has been covered with strips of totara bark and placed inside a woven kete (basket). Made as recently as the 1920s–1930s, it is evidence of a tradition that still has strong relevance today.
The custom of collecting and storing titi – widely known as muttonbirding – is practised by the people of Rakiura (Stewart Island), where they and their descendants have seasonal rights to gather titi on 36 nearby islands.
From here.