There are a lot of great opportunities to learn about Māori culture in New Zealand. I attended my first cultural demonstration at the War Memorial Museum in Auckland. The second took place during my day at Te Puia. But I knew that no trip to Rotorua would be complete without attending one of the city’s popular evening experiences. So I booked a visit to Tamaki Maori Village.
These evening events — complete with a hangi dinner feast — are a big draw for Rotorua tourists. They’re also important to the Māori hosts who encourage visitors to take photos and record videos, and then share them with the rest of the world.
All of the cultural events I’ve attended have been designed to both educate and entertain. When visiting Tamaki Village, the learning began as soon as I — and the other guests — boarded our tour bus in Rotorua’s city center. During the ride to Tamaki, our driver explained the structure for the evening and the protocol for entering the village. We were also asked to select someone from our group to act as “chief” for greeting the village leaders. We chose a man named Scotty from Tasmania — or a Tazzy as he and his companions described themselves.
When we arrived at Tamaki, warriors greeted Scotty with a challenge that included fierce gestures and aggressive movements with the taiaha (spear-like weapon). The challenge was followed by a peace offering. Once Scotty accepted the offer, our group was welcomed into the village.
The formal welcoming process was fascinating, and the warriors were intimidating! As guests, we were reminded that this very serious ceremony was conducted exactly as tradition has dictated for hundreds of years.
Once inside the village, we were treated to a series of hands-on demonstrations that explained everything from tribal tattoos to traditional clothing, homes and housewares … along with games and drills designed to teach dexterity to the children, women and men of the village. They also taught the men in our group how to perform the haka. Everybody loves the haka!
(Whispers: I love this one)
I tried to take some decent photos of the demonstrations, but it started raining pretty heavily, and I needed to put my camera back in its case. These photos from Tamaki’s image gallery do a much better job of capturing the evening’s highlights.
After the demonstrations, we moved to another part of the village where our hangi dinner was being lifted from the ground. This traditional feast is cooked in an earth oven using a combination of white-hot rocks, baskets, and wet cloths.
But before sitting down for dinner, we were to treated to a taste of Māori music and traditional performances. Here’s a taste for you too!
After the performance, it was time to eat. Everything was really delicious … including my green Kiwi punch!
As it happened, my visit to Tamaki Village took place on my last night in Rotorua, and it was a wonderful way to cap off my time there.
And to cap off this post … two more videos from the evening’s performance. If you’re ever in Rotorua, or any other part of New Zealand, I highly recommend attending a Māori cultural experience. And then sharing your photos and videos with the rest of the world!