We have been in New Zealand for a month already, but surprisingly have seen very little Maori cultural life. For some reason I was expecting to. But here in the thermally active Rotorua area we have finally found it.
In fact there are several competing Maori Cultural Centers. At least five, which made it a bit confusing as to which to visit.
Even though I’m always saying we try not to behave like tourists, I still find myself drawn to activities such as these. Because it’s the only way you really can learn about the cultural history – even if it is a bit touristy.
And it was. But it was also a lot of fun and I’m glad we did it. I was expecting the Mitai Maori Village (the one we chose for no particular reason) to be like a Luau. And it was exactly like that – except for the fact it was pouring down rain!
Some of the highlights included the fact they picked us up at the park we are staying at, the Cultural performance was wonderful- especially the musical selections, watching the tribe makes arrive by traditional canoe and the food was abundant and delicious. Worth the money.
My favorite was the performance. The native performers were very talented singers and dancers. The show included explanations on history. We learned there are still 80 Maori tribes in New Zealand. The Maori arrived on the islands, which they call Aotearoa (land of the long white cloud) 2000 years ago. The Tearawa tribe (which we watched perform) moved to the thermal Rotorua area 500 years later.
For hundreds of years the warring tribes battled each other over two things – women and territory. The Maori were cannibals, killing and eating their enemies. Today their battles take place at the annual Maori Tribes Rugby tournament.
But we were assured we weren’t eating any other tribes – just chicken, lamb, sweet potatoes, seafood chowder and bread, Rowena, the traditional sweet bread. The meat and potatoes were cooked in a pit over hot stones very similar to the imu the Hawaiians use for roast Kalua pork.
There were definitely other similarities to the Hawaiian culture as well as to the Rapanui culture we enjoyed on Easter Island. The dance and language has some aspects that are similar while the dress is more dependent for each culture on the local plant and animal life. But there is no question there is a connection amongst the Polynesian people who history believes all originated somewhere in Africa
I am glad we took the time to visit the Mitai Maori Center and I recommend it if you visit the area. Very fun and interesting, even if it is for the tourists.