Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mitai Maori Village

Hey guys,

Sorry for the long delay. I've been really busy, actually, but I'll get to that in an eventual entry.
Traditional Scene

Still in Rotorua, on one of the nights, I went to a very touristic but amazing place: the Mitai Maori Village. You pay $80NZ and you see how the Maori used to live, the songs they sang, their customs and they had a traditional meal, called a Hangi.
The Hangi
The hangi was traditionally sweet potato, potato and meat (in this case, chicken and lamb) cooked underground in an earthenware pot. Now, though, because of the strict health and safety regulations, you can't use earthenware anymore, so they use metal instead. In addition to the show and food, there was a little walk in the woods, first to see how the Maori rowed their canoes and the singing they did and then, later on to see the glow worms around a natural spring that provided fresh water for the tribe for centuries. The water we drank at dinner was from that spring. The water is really cold, somewhere below 10degrees Celsius.

Rowing backwards

I'll let the videos tell you most of the story, but you all know that nothing compares to actually seeing it for real. Most of the people had painted on the tattooes they would have had in the past, but the chief actually had real tattoes from his navel down to his knees. It's really impressive.
If you look carefully, you can just make out the tatooes from his lower back and down.
What is also interesting about this place is that of 103 people working there and running the opertations, 101 of those people are from the same family. It's really a family business and it really keeps the culture alive for the young. I love that.
The Chief
Something you have to keep in mind is that every Maori tribe has different dances. The Haka, the warrior dance that some of you might have seen when watching Kiwis play Rugby against other countries, is different from tribe to tribe and that's a really cool thing.

Challenging the Enemy
The men and women open there eyes really wide so that the enemies could see the whites and it is quite the intimidation technique. The men also stick their tongues out, and it actually meant that they meant to eat their enemies. Most, but not all, Maori tribes were cannibals, so it wasn't just a scare tactic, it was also a promise of what was to come. Isn't that cool? The tongue thing, I mean.

Opening Ceremony
I will not go into it today, but I will dedicate an entry on the tattooing culture here and explain to you the significance. It's not like how in the west people just choose something random at times, just cause they want a tattoo. Not all Maoris had them, but those that did, all told a very specific story. I'll let that stew with you and tell you more some other day. For now, enjoy the images.

Rowing Forward
Maori culture is alive and well here. I was so utterly impressed how well they've preserved their culture. They actually have two TV channels just for the Maoris. One is called Maori Television and they have all kinds of programs, including international shows that are really interesting. They often have Maori language shows with English subtitles for people like me who can't understand a thing! I'm grateful! They have other shows where they introduce and talk about a particular element of the culture, for example introducing and demonstrating the use of their traditional instruments. Other shows include the National Maori Competition of singing and dancing. They take high school students from across the country and they compete to see who sings and dances the best. The other channel is called Te Oro (I think!) and it's completely in Maori with no subtitles, so that was tough for me. Even on regular non-cable TV, there is the news that comes on a few times a day and is completely in Maori.
Anyway, to go back to the dancing: a few tips. They always make their hands shake, as though you were trembling and this signifies the energy that we're all a part of. The Poi dance was originally not a dance, but an exercise that the men did to strengthen their wrists for combat. The women later took it and made it into a dance more for touristic purposes than because it was necessary. Today, it shows the women's incredible dexterity. Poi are little balls that were weighted in the past and men would flick them back and forth in order to prepare for the heavy spears they used in combat.

Poi dance
I apologize for the videos which are sideways. For the life of me, I can't figure out how to rotate it. It's really frustrating!
I hope that there will be many more chances to learn about Maori culture for me. That's why I came here!


Sasha said...

I can't believe you're getting to see all of this. You really chose a fantastic place to visit man. I'm officially upgrading NZ to a higher position on my places to visit list. This makes me wish i could just fuck off for a while and do some of the things you're doing right now. I hope i get that chance.

L said...

You'll get that chance man, you just have to take it. There have been so many times that I wish I could share this with you because I'm positive you'd be just as amazed as me. Perhaps one day we'll get a chance to travel together again. India was really cool and I think we could put up with each other somewhere else too!