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Amanda Lee Temasek Polytechnic School of Business Leisure and Resort Management track, dance



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Traditions of New Zealand
Friday, December 10, 2010 5:41 AM
Over the years, the Maori and Pakeha have actually influenced each other greatly in terms of culture and traditions. Therefore, since the Pakeha does not have a distinct culture on their own, the traditions of New Zealand are largely Maori influenced. The Maori traditions are exceptionally distinct, they are also widely known around the world. If you think of New Zealand, most people would probably mention the Haka dance; it is frequently performed by athletes in major sports games like the Youth Olympics. Besides the Haka, there are also other traditions existing in New Zealand.


The Powhiri is a traditional formal welcome into the marae (meeting place of the local Maori people). It is used to identify whether the visitor is a friend or foe. It begins with a challenge from a warrior of tangata whenua (people of the land; host) to the guests, the warrior may carry a spear and he would lay a token for the guest to receive. In order to show that the guest comes in peace, the guest has to pick it up. There would also be callings made by women of tangata whenua to establish the relationship between guests and tangata whenua. After which, greetings would be exchanged and a Hongi- traditional greeting that involves touching the nose- would be performed, signifies the mingling together and both parties becoming one. The guest would usually have to present a Koha (gift) to the tangata whenua as a form of respect.

Ta Moko
The Ta Moko is a traditional Maori tattoo that is often done on the face, it is regarded as a taonga (treasure) to the Maori people and its application can be consider sacred. Each and every Moko contains messages that tell a story of the wearer’s ancestral or tribal roots, it also contains a value. The value indicates the wearer’s standing in the social class. Initially, Ta Moko was a declining art form in the 20th century. However, after realizing its importance as a cultural pride to the Maori it is an art form being revived over the years. The Ta Moko is not a fashion trend, it is an indication of who the Maori people are and it has enabled them to keep and retain their unique identity over the years. For females, the moko is generally only done at the chin, whereas for men it is done on the whole face and sometimes other parts of the body

It is basically a traditional form of cooking in the earth by the Maori people. The Maori people believed that the earth was the giver of all life and that the soil gave food. Therefore, they believed that the same food should be cooked in the earth.
Stones are heated in the pit dug out from earth, leaves or watercress are use to prevent the actual food from getting burnt. The actual food like mutton, chicken, fish, and potatoes would be lowered into the pit using a basket. The food is then covered with a wet cloth and a layer of earth above to trap heat in. It usually takes about 3 hours to cook the food. The food produced would have a unique and distinct earthy taste and fragrance to it. Although the Hangi is traditional and takes long hours to cook, but the Hangi is still popular often use as a alternative to barbeques, the Hangi has also been commercialize as places with natural thermal steam and water in New Zealand offers the Hangi ‘experience’ to visitors.

The above three traditions are mostly applicable to the Maori and not the Pakeha as it is part of their unique way of life. The following tradition would apply to New Zealand as a whole in general, as the Maori has actually influenced the Pakeha in this area.

Kapa Haka
The term Kapa Haka derives its meaning from two words, Kapa and Haka. Kapa means to stand in rows and Haka refers to the Maori dance. In general, Kapa Haka describe the performing arts of the Maori, it consists of different elements, the poi(dance that is practice only by women), haka, waiata a ringa (action songs) and waiata tawhito(chants). These elements are often used to record history, convey meanings, and tell stories, to celebrate and other meanings. However, I would only be focusing on the area of the Haka dance due to its wide influence.

Haka dance

Poi dance

Haka dance

All Blacks

From what I have observed in my research, the Haka originated from the Maori people but, now even the Pakeha are using it as part of their tradition. For example, the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team is famous for doing the Haka before their matches; most members of the All Blacks are not of Maori origin but are of Pakeha origin. The word ‘Haka’ actually means dance in general, however the Haka dance is also known as a war dance; a fearsome challenge to the opponents as traditionally it was performed before charging into a battle. The facial expressions such as sticking out the tongue and body language such as feet stamping of the Haka dance is often used to instill fear into the opponents. The Haka dance has become an important part of cultural identity for New Zealand as the image of the Haka dance is being disseminate all over the world through sports meets, where it is most commonly seen. An example for the Haka dance in the sports arena is in one of the All Blacks rugby match, where they use the Haka as a challenge throw down against the opponents. This can be seen in the YouTube video below.