The Maori people are the native people of New Zealand (Aotearoa) and first arrived to the country on canoes from Hawaiki over 1000 years ago. Their culture has a huge impact on the New Zealand way of life and today Maori people make up nearly 15 percent of the population.
Maori culture covers many areas such as art, film, television, poetry, theatre, and dance. Traditional arts such as carving, weaving, kapa haka (group performance) and whaikorero (oratory) are seen throughout New Zealand. Another prominent feature of Maori culture is the striking tattoos that cover the face. Full faced tattoos or "moko", amongst the Maori tribes was predominantly a male activity but it is still seen today.
Maori culture is seen in many traditional places but it is also found in many mainstream places. The New Zealand rugby teams represent the Maori culture by performing a traditional dance called the Haka to intimidate their opponents before the game and many New Zealand television shows incorporate the Maori language with greetings such as "kia ora".
A majority of place names all over New Zealand are named after Maori origin.
The creation of New Zealand is explained by the legend of Maui. This god harnessed the sun in order to make the days longer. He also fished up of the North Island, which is described as Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui). Maori describe the South Island as Maui's waka (canoe) and Stewart Island as his punga (anchor).
The Maori culture has many unique traditions, the traditional Maori welcome is called a powhiri; this involves a hongi which is a greeting that involves pressing noses.
A traditional form of cooking is a Hangi this is a feast cooked in the earth, the food takes about 3 hours to cook. The Hangi is still very popular and the taste of the food is described as steamed food with an earthen flavour.
If you want to really experience Maori culture there is some key places to visit: Waitangi is often regarded as the birthplace of the nation as it was where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed in 1840. Rotorua is a great spot for learning about Maori culture, a must-do while in town is a visit to the Tamaki Maori Village for dinner and entertainment.
Wellington is the best place to learn about the Maori way of life and history as its home to New Zealand's National Museum, Te Papa. Cape Reinga is the far northern tip of New Zealand has huge significance to the Maori people, it is thought to be the point where the soul of the deceased leaves the mortal world and departs for the spiritual homeland of Hawaiki.
Another excellent place to learn about Maori history is the Tairawhiti Museum in Gisborne, Poverty Bay. It centres around the Maori of the East Coast, but the main focus is on arts and crafts.