A Maori Welcome

On our second evening in Rotorua, we went to the Mitai Maori village for a Maori cultural experience evening. I still can’t work out how they managed to show us so much in the few hours we were there. A coach picked us and a lot of other people up from our motels/campsites in the early evening and took us to the Maori village. I’m guessing about 200 of us (including at least another ten busloads of people) gathered in a big hall to be welcomed by a guy who MC’d the proceedings with great Maori kiwi humour and style.

One of the most warmly welcoming things about this evening was the way the guy MC’ing it welcomed people among us from around 15 different countries in our own languages. And he didn’t just say “Welcome”. He had a little conversation with people in their own language (including mentioning the word for “chocolate cake” which he’d gone to the trouble of learning in every language, so it became a comedy moment at the end of each welcome).

So often I think we’re so keen to say what we want to say that we don’t even stop to realise that the people we’re speaking to speak a different language and so might not understand. I’ve noticed that this happens a lot even within groups who all speak the same tongue, but who are from different age groups or cultural groups and so understand the words differently.

How wonderful to take the trouble of asking your guests where they’re from and of welcoming them in their own language before you try to teach them anything about your own language or culture. We English are infamous for not learning other languages. I feel quite ashamed of that. But also of times when I’ve been so keen to speak that I’ve failed to really listen.

Anyway, I tried to write more about this extraordinary evening, but I think the pics probably speak more powerfully for themselves…

This was our hangi (pronounced “hungi”) feast being cooked. Sweet potatoes are traditional Maori food (the types of meat here are more what they have assimilated from other cultures). The food is suspended over fire-heated stones for hours to cook it:

This is the waka (Maori boat pronounced “woka”) used in the film The Piano to transport the grand piano. Maoris arrived in New Zealand on these boats originally from Tahiti. Maoris trace their family ancestry back to which waka they were on when they arrived:

Maori warriors rowing a waka and chanting as they go:

Maori welcome and concert:

This music was for times of healing:

The evening was altogether very musical!

After the hangi feast, we had a beautiful night time bushwalk by Rainbow Springs. On the walk, our Maori guide explained that the water on our tables at the feast had been taken directly from these spring waters. I couldn’t capture the glow worms on the banks but they were there. A magical end to an extraordinary evening.

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