Week 11: New Zealand

This week we’re going to make our final stop on our tour of Oceania and the Pacific by visiting New Zealand. New Zealand is a magnificent land in the South Pacific that, at least from a distance, seems too good to be true. An extraordinary landscape, a rich, multifaceted culture, a stable, well-functioning infrastructure, friendly, welcoming people…. There are problems in New Zealand to be sure, and we’ll acknowledge some of them below, but if we’re traveling all that way, eager to find so much fun, don’t we have a right to at least try to be oblivious? We’re thousands of miles away from home and not looking for trouble….

HISTORY: “Polynesians first settled New Zealand in the late 13th century and within a couple centuries had developed a distinct ‘Maori’ culture . . . .”

MUSIC: “Before Europeans landed in Aotearoa, much Maori vocal music was similar to that found elsewhere in Polynesia–energized chanting, often done without instrumental accompaniment and with the vocalists singing either solo or in unison . . . .”

LANGUAGES: “New Zealand has two main languages you may expect–English, the colonial language, and Maori, the local Polynesian language–and one you probably wouldn’t . . . .”

WHEN YOU GO THERE: “New Zealand is naturally gorgeous and warmly welcoming, with enough tourist-friendly infrastructure to make a visit both functional and fun . . . .”

HAKA: “While “haka” is the generic term for Maori dance, today’s most identifiable haka is a ferocious chant in which dancers pound on their bodies, using themselves as percussion . . . .”

KI O’RAHI: “Ki o’rahi may or may not have been present in Maori communities for centuries, but by most accounts it at least existed long before rugby . . . .”

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