The Maori were New Zealand's first settlers about 1000 years ago and they named the new land Aotearoa - Land of the Long White Cloud. In 1769 Captain James Cook claimed it for Britain. The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 between leading Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown, is New Zealand's founding document and established the country as a nation.
The Maori have a close kinship with their environment. The basis of the Maori culture lies in its
Polynesian belief of a divine direction in all matters. In the beginning a host of gods such as Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest) and Tangaroa (God of the Sea), and four others who are: wind, wild food, planted food, and mankind, were born to Rangi (the Sky Father) and Papa (the Earth Mother). They are remembered through song and dance.
All literature in Maori was orally passed onto succeeding generations. This included many legends and waiata (song). The most recognised tradition is the "Haka" which is a war dance. The Haka was performed before the onset of war by the Maori last century, but has been immortalized by New Zealand's Rugby Team the All Blacks, who perform this dance before every game.
The traditional Maori welcome is called a powhiri, this involves a hongi which is a greeting that involves pressing noses as opposed to a kiss.
Another prominent feature of Maori culture are the striking tattoos that were worn. Full faced tattoos or "moko", amongst the Maori tribes was predominantly a male activity. Female forms of moko were restricted to the chin area , the upper lip, and the nostrils. Today there is an increasing number of Maori who are opting to receive their Moko, in an effort to preserve their culture and identity.
Gumboots, ‘Buzzy Bee’ toys, marching girls, a meringue dessert, shell ashtrays, and a cookbook may not seem terribly important objects. But to many Kiwis (New Zealanders), such things assume vital importance as major icons of Kiwiana! What is Kiwiana? It could be described as all the weird and wonderful quirky things from years gone by that contribute to our sense of nationhood — our kiwi identity.
What is a Kiwi?
To understand Kiwiana, it’s important to first know what exactly a kiwi is. A kiwi is a flightless nocturnal native bird, and the national bird of New Zealand. It has a long beak with nostrils on the end, and fossicks about at night feeding on small insects. However, over the years, New Zealanders have become known as ‘Kiwis’ as well. There is a ‘kiwi’ sense of humour, a kiwi ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude, and Kiwiana means the things that contribute to our sense of being Kiwi. Just to confuse you, the kiwifruit is often called a ‘kiwi’ in Europe and America and ‘Kiwi’ nugget (shoe polish) is known throughout the world, although it is an Australian invention!
The Kiwifruit, often simply called a ‘kiwi’ is of Chinese origin, but grows throughout New Zealand. It was originally called a ‘Chinese Gooseberry’ by New Zealanders, but when New Zealand started to export the fruit, it was decided to give them a better name. ‘Kiwifruit’ was the choice, because it would associate the fruit with New Zealand. The choice was timely, and New Zealand enjoyed record exports during the worldwide Kiwifruit boom. While kiwifruit are now grown throughout the world, you can always tell if a kiwifruit is from New Zealand, as it will be branded ‘Zespri’