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contemporary maori?!

NEW ZEALAND | Friday, 23 May 2008 | Views [1455]

except for our greeting on my first day at university and our trip to the pacific islands festival in auckland i didn't really experience the maori culture. although it is all around me. the uni stands on grounds that belong to a maori tribe, every sign is bilingual, there are carvings all over the uni buildings and of course there are offers to learn and experience the culture.

then finally last weekend i went to a noho marae, a overnight stay at a whare nui, a maori meeting house, in rotorua, together with about a hundred international students. 

our visit took place in the formal maori tradition, starting with the karanga. when visitors enter the marae, the meeting place, the grounds where the whare nui stands, they are greeted by a woman who calls the karanga.he is the first voice to be heard and through this, she ignites the engagement process.  a woman of the visitors will respond to that karanga. the cries exchanged by the women will credential those past and present, historical, present and spiritual events. once in the whare nui, the greeting process, the mihi, begins. first the host speaks, welcoming the visitors. during whaikorero (speechmaking) the orators make links between the ancestors and the living. the kaupapa, or purpose of the occasion, will be discussed, and general issues and concerns might  also be aired. after the host spoke, the visitors answer, then the host speaks again. we also sang a song for them,  they sang for us as well. then the hongi followed to end the greeting process.

all the visitors moved forward (male first) and exchanged the hongi. the hongi is a gentle pressing of noses, and signifies the mingling together of the sacred breath of life, making the two sides one.

then we ate and had workshops, the guys learned a haka, a traditional dance (very scary, haha) and we made poi balls, instruments that are used by maori women when they dance. we never got to learn to use them though, sadly.

later at night we went to a polynesian spa, hot pools with sulphur water. very smelly indeed, but sooo nice. one of the pools was very close to the lake, so you could sit there and see all the lights reflecting on the water.

the night then was horrible. we all slept in the whare nui together, which could have been fun. but: i couldn't sleep at all. about 40 people were snoring, i still suffered from my cold and at 6 in the morning the asians started to talk and take pictures of the sleeping, stepping on my matress all the time...

next day, after breakfast, we went to te puia, an area where they set up a traditional marae, houses where you could learn about weaving and carving, the maori culture and so on. the area also includes mud pools, geysirs and the sulphur smell is all around. and best of all: a kiwi house! i saw kiwis, finally! i didn't think they would be so big, actually. it was probably the best about the whole weekend.

yesterday i went to jamie's final presentation of her contemporary maori dance class. again we were greeted in maori, without understanding a word. it feels weird, when there was obviously made a joke, everybody is laughing, except for us, the international students. but slowly i get used to it ;-) the dances were amazing. traditional maori instruments and songs mixed with modern music, the same for the dance moves. it is amazing what they learned in only one to two semesters! i was sitting there, totally absorbed into what was happening on stage.

it is interesting to see how maori people hold on to their traditions and adjust them at the same time. they are so proud, it feels like a present or very special when you are allowed to share it with them. 

my 3 months crisis is almost over. maybe it's because the sun shone the lust couple of days and my cough is almost gone. uni is soon finished and then i'll have my practicum at an intermediate school in town. next week i will go there for a first visit, i am so excited. 

Tags: culture, university

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