The Maori people have a beautiful culture that has legends, songs, traditions, and history that they pass on from generation to generation. I attended a weekly meeting where a group of Maori people practice traditional songs and dances. Most of the people that are part of the group are family and some grew up in New Zealand themselves. They were all very welcoming and extremely excited to share their culture and history with me.
The Maori are native people of New Zealand. The culture is rich with traditions, language, song, dance and pride. Maori people have a special place to meet for specific rituals or to teach others about their culture. The meeting place is called a Marae. It is a very large structure that is hand carved with specific characters that provide protection or guidance to the people. The Marae is actually made in the image of a body with a head in the front, the front beams representing arms and legs, the large beam down the middle resembling the spine. In order to see the inside of a Marae you have to have a formal invitation and partake in a welcoming ceremony which includes singing and dancing. The Maori people also have a rather famous history when it comes to war and the Haka dance that is often most recognized by outsiders. When tripe’s would fight they would eat the prisoners and that is why they stick out their tongues during war songs as a warning that you could be eaten if you cross their paths. Women also partake in the war songs and distort their faces in order to intimidate the other tribe. They are a very superstitious people and have many rules they follow so that bad spirits and bad luck do not follow them. They don’t talk about demons or other dark spirits at night so they are not invited in, and wash their hands after leaving a cemetery so the spirits that can’t sleep don’t follow to them. The Maori people have many legends that intertwine spirits with nature. Certain animals are considers “tapu,” meaning sacred because they believe that spirits can be attached to them such as whales. Traditionally they have very strong family ties and strongly uphold the statement that it takes a village to raise a family.
I attended a meeting call Kapa Haka. The group practiced traditional songs and dances from their culture. This particular group meets weekly. They learn songs that depict their history that include war songs, songs about love, and welcome songs. These songs have been passed down from generations and also songs that the group has made themselves. This group performs at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii and downtown Salt Lake City at the multicultural center as well. They wear traditional clothing during the practice which includes a grass skirt and a cross-stitched top which are all hand made. The head of the group also have a feather cloak that is only earned and given to another member as a sign of respect. The men and women dance with different artifacts. Then men dance with a spear and women have poi’s which are tightly wrapped balls that they swing around their wrists during the dance. Traditionally poi’s consisted of a rock wrapped in flax leaf and was for protection as well.
I chose to use the Value Orientation theory by Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck. I chose this theory because it has roots that relate to the Maori culture the most. In this theory they focused on the cultural beliefs. The relationships made in the culture between the people and nature, the collective vs. individual emphasis, and emphasis on the future or past all relate to how the Maori
The Maori people believe that people are basically good. If there is an evil person they believe that they are possessed with “taniwha,” which is a demon. Although the Maori people are very proud of their culture and would protect it if needed they are a fairly peaceful people. The relationship between people and nature in very intertwined with history and folklore. They respect the land and oceans and believe that if anything needs to be taken from the earth or sea they make sure to use everything to show respect for the sacrifice made. One legend that they have is about an ancestor that became a humpback whale himself. A large canoe was built to carry the chief’s sons on a trip. One son was angered because he was a bastard son and not given all the privileges of the other sons. The bastard son created a whole in the canoe and drowned all the sons but one. The one surviving son swam from his brother, as he was swimming a humpback whale surfaced to save him and took him down to become a whale himself. So now anytime a humpback whale is seen it is believed to not only carry the spirit of the son but also other ancestors. The Maori preserve their culture by remembering the past and passing it on to the children for future generations. As mentioned earlier the Maori people participate in a more collective pattern than encouraging individualism.
The power distance theory mention in our textbook, Intercultural Communications, actually mentions New Zealand. They do have a “small power distance” and believe that power in the many is better than in the hierarchy. Culturally they have gender specific roles that include common homemaker and warrior roles. However, the importance of women in the culture is well respected and held sacred.
I was excited to do this project. Learning about different cultures and religions is something I think everyone does. It helps open peoples perspectives when they can further their understanding of another culture. I chose this culture because my girlfriend is Maori and I wanted to know more about her culture. She doesn’t always share everything about her culture and this was a great way to have her open up to me about their traditions. I was simply more amazed by the depth of the culture. Everything they did was symbolic of something. The moves performed in the dance were almost like sign language aiding in the message of the songs. I think the theory helped to define different aspects of the culture so that I could understand it better. The different points of the theory also helped to define differences in the culture versus my own. Being aware of someone else’s traditions and cultures makes me more open to other people’s opinions and understand their point of view.