Thursday, November 10, 2005

Maori Christmas

Rotorua, New Zealand

The Maoris are a polynesian people that colonized what is now New Zealand from around 1300 AD. Ever seen a picture of tribesmen with facial tattoos sticking out their tongues? That's them. The Maori are unusual among pre-colonial people in that they have retained high numbers (more than 10% of the population) and a strong place in the national identity. They have pursued a successful campaign of land reclamation in the courts and become something of the poster-people for NZ tourism.

Unfortunately, the "ancient people making good in the modern world" image is only the external face of things. Within New Zealand, Maoris (and other non-whites) are strongly associated with urban poverty and everything that comes with it. If the newspapers are to be believed, the only other sure way to get in touch with modern Maori culture is to join a gang or try to buy some P.

I digress. P is what they call speed (AKA crank, meth) in New Zealand. You hear things on the news like "an Auckland man was arrested in possession of 2 kilos of P" and "P addiction is a growing problem among the nation's youth". I am probably not the first to point out the P/pee duality, but that does not make it any less funny. Just say no to P. End digression.

All of the best parts of the national museum of New Zealand (including the name - Te Papa) have to do with Maori culture. You expect to see quite a bit of weapons, jewelry, and wood carving, and the exhibits do not disappoint. In addition to the normal "tribey" things there is also plenty of information about conflict with the Europeans that, although still PC, contained some surprisingly extreme viewpoints.

In Rotorua, we made an exception to the OC's "no tour groups" rule and signed up for a dinner-and-a-show sort of outing to a recreated Maori village. The examples of village life were lame, the musical performance was inspirational, and the dinner was unremarkable except for its method of preparation. Festive meals are cooked buried on rocks heated by a tea-tree fire. You know everything is done when steam escapes from the covering earth. I give the whole Maori village show a 6 of 10. It is not heart-stoppingly great, but it could easily be much, much worse,

There is no surprise why New Zealand has taken such a shine to their minority legacy. Compared to Maori tales of war and strange gods and traveling for hundreds of miles by canoe to find a land of prophecy, the history of the invading honkeys is uniformly yawn-inspiring. The colonists in NZ do not even have the small amount of cred afforded Australians by being minor criminals. They were largely middle-classed Brits that fancied a warm Christmas. I reckon that Kiwis cultivate the Maori image for the same reasons that suburban kids in the US (and elsewhere) wear gold chains and throw up gang signs. There is something hip about ethnicity. And I ain't talking about "Irish-American".


Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a homo blog, fucking faggot p head

12/21/2007 8:57 PM gmt


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