Discover the World of the Maori People

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"Maori art is inseparable from Maori culture. It is like a living organism that exists in the spirit of our people and drives them towards wider horizons and greater achievement."

Raranga – the art of weaving

When Māori first arrived in Aotearoa, the encountered climate was much more severe compared to the temperaments they were accustomed to from their home land – Polynesia. To swiftly adapt, the Maori people utilized their existing twining and weaving skills to produce korowai, or cloaks that were often decorated with feathers and designer threads, as well as other practical commodities. These included wares such as kete, or baskets, and whāriki, or mats. Weaving was traditionally done by women, and skilled weavers were prized within their tribes. They most often used harakeke, otherwise known as New Zealand flax, as a weaving material.

'Aitia te wahine o te pā harakeke' | 'Marry the woman who is always at the flax bush, for she is an expert flax worker and an industrious person'.

Whakairo – the art of carving

Every whakairo (Māori carving) made is given a unique narrative. These stories are passed down throughout generations in order to explain both cultural traditions and tribal history. The art of carving was initially reserved for the Māori men. Their craft included a plethora of items: precious adornments, weapons, tools, musical instruments, canoes, and decorative panels and posts for the various buildings within the village. Said precious adornments were, and are still, worn as a sign of prestige; they included ear pendants, breast pendants and carved combs worn in the hair. These could be made from a various array of materials; jade, greenstone, whale ivory and whale bone would be combined with several other materials such as albatross feathers and sharks teeth.

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  • Modern day Maori people are now Christians, like many other New Zealanders
  • Traditional Maori religion consisted of two parts: mana and tapu
  • Mana:a spiritual power or presence that can be acquired over the course of a person’s life
  • Tapu:a spiritual and social code that was key to traditional society

------------------> involved appreciation and respect towards people, the environment, and natural resources

  • Both mana and tapu work together, hence the more mana a person has the more tapu a person would have have
  • Ancestor worship was a primary part in their beliefs
  • They have many gods for the sky, sea, mountains, etc.
  • The way of expressing their faith was through body art, or tattoos, mainly on the face

------------------> The art is significant to the wearer in that it contains their genealogy, shows stories of the family, and it even shows placement in the social structure


Today, about 530,000 Maoris live in New Zealand. They make up about 15% of the New Zealand population. This is a big improvement on the once very small population of only 45,000 in the 1890s. As the Maori population continues to grow, so will their reputation.

Despite tribal infighting, diseases, and European meddling, the Maoris have managed to resurrect a culture rich in history, art, and symbolism. Their language and culture has had a major impact on New Zealand life.

Now, the Maoris are included in political, economic, and social institutions. Also, the New Zealand government funded a Maori television station to help revitalize the Maori culture.