Many visitors to New Zealand have questions about Maori life and culture. As home to Ko Tane, one of the country’s premier Maori cultural tours, we’re always happy to share what we know!
‘Where did the Maori live before they arrived in New Zealand?’ is a question we get a lot. The answer is that the Maori arrived in New Zealand from East Polynesia sometime before 1300. Over several centuries of relative isolation from their Polynesian ancestors, Maori developed a distinct culture and identity.
Polynesia describes the islands found within a geographic triangle with Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island making up the three corners. The diversity of the cultures found on these islands is fascinating, as are the many similarities.
To help you get a feel for Maori and Polynesian culture, we’ve come up with a list of some great cultural tours and experiences that will give you a fascinating peak into the lives of Maori and Pacific Islanders then and now.
Ko Tane Living Maori Village, New Zealand
Willowbank is home to Ko Tane, an authentic Maori cultural experience. Tours of our Living Maori Village show guests what a traditional Maori village looks like and also offers a glimpse into traditional Maori life. Founded by members of the Ngai Tahu tribe, Ko Tane aims to entertain and educate, sharing the fascinating culture and lifestyle of the Ngai Tahu tribe before New Zealand was colonised by Europeans.
An evening at Ko Tane is an interactive experience, where guests take a tour of the village, experience a powhiri (traditional ritual for welcoming guests) and the opportunity to take part in the haka (men) or the poi dance (women). A classic New Zealand cultural tour!
Te Vara Nui Village in Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Te Vara Nui Village in Rarotonga is the most interactive cultural experience on the islands. The village tour includes a visit to the marae and demonstrations of traditional medicine, carving and medicines. You can also choose to stay for the evening meal and entertainment, the highlight of which is the captivating traditional dance.
This is a fascinating stop if you’ve been to Ko Tane at Willowbank. There are many cultural similarities between New Zealand Maori and Cook Island Maori, indicating a foundational kinship. The opportunity to learn about the similarities and differences between the two cultures is not to be missed!
Pasifika Festival Auckland, New Zealand
The Pasifika Festival is an annual event, held in Auckland every March. This week-long festival celebrates the Pacific Island heritage of many New Zealanders. The festivities include dancing, music, food and art. Definitely not to be missed if you’re in New Zealand in early March! The Pasifika Festival in 2011 is looking to be a big event, with twelve stages of entertainment, featuring the art and culture of Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Tahiti, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Aotearoa.
Polynesian Cultural Centre, Hawaii
Hawaii is the northern point of the geographic triangle that makes up Polynesia. This neat centre on the island of Oahu is a comprehensive introduction to a range of Polynesian cultures, with interactive displays featuring the nations of Hawaii, New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Easter Island, Tahiti and the Marquesas. After a whirlwind cultural tour, settle in for the evening for the nightly luau (Hawaiian feast). This showcase of island culture includes a traditional Hawaiian feast, music and hula performances.