The Mystical Maoris

Pacific - Editor - 23 May 2007

The Mystical Maoris

The Maoris or the Tangata Whenua - which means ‘people of the land’ – are the indigenous peoples of New Zealand. However, it is thought that before the twelfth century the Maoris inhabited the Polynesian islands located in the Pacific Ocean.

Considering the reputation that the Polynesians had as master navigators, it is not difficult to believe that they made their way all the way across the Pacific Ocean. The use of cloud patterns, stars and the color of water helped them navigate their canoes across that great expanse of water. There is no real evidence as to whether this was what actually happened but the likelihood of it is good.

What is known for sure is that the Maoris’ are an artistically and culturally rich nation. Their Polynesian culture, which is full of dancing, singing and art works like weaving and carving, is something that is deeply embedded in their society. Wood and whalebones were common materials used to produce intricate and complex pieces of artwork. These beautiful carvings are used in and around their homes, not only for art and for functional reasons but also as a way of paying respect to their ancestors. The protruding tongue and the human body were common forms used for carvings.

The Maoris were a people who had no written language to fall back on and so it was only through story telling that information could be passed on. Many legends have been passed on this way from one generation to the next generation and it is still a strong part of the Maoris culture. Each year the Aotearoa (New Zealand) Traditional Maori Performing Arts Festival is held and it is here that the Maoris remember and teach the youngsters about their history and where they came from.

Over the centuries the Maoris have survived by using the abundant natural resources found in New Zealand. Over time through trial and error they have gained knowledge and developed skills which help them use the environment to survive. The Maori view the natural environment with great respect and see the provisions that have come from the earth as having come from the gods of the forest, sea, earth and of the sky. Come and discover more about this amazing people next time you visit New Zealand.


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