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Background statement

The Maori culture is fascinating. Scholars have tried to find out more information about this culture, particularly their food, religion and language.

Definition of terms

Maori people are natives of New Zealand. They are Polynesian and consist of about fourteen percent of the country's population. Te Reo Maori is a language spoken by the Maori people. It is a language related to Hawaiian and Tahitian languages. Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand. It means the land that has a long white cloud. The word "whakapapa" describes the Maori ancestors.

Scope

In this essay, the main areas of discussion include the Maori religion, traditional food and language. It is, however, noteworthy that before discussing these issues it is crucial to understand the origin of the Maori people and their traditions.

Origin

There is a popular Maori tale that says the Maori people came from Hawaiki. Hawaiki is believed to be the well-known homeland for the Maori people. They migrated from this place more than one thousand years ago. When they first came to New Zealand, they settled in the north Island. In this place, they found domain that was extremely different from Polynesia. New Zealand was colder than Polynesia; it had vast volcanoes and mountains covered with snow at their tops.

There are some theories that believe that the Maori discovered New Zealand by chance, as they might have been blown off route in one of their navigation. This theory is not sufficient because evidence has shown that the Maori had refined primordial knowledge of the stars and ocean currents. This knowledge is carved in their "whare" which means houses (Trigger, 2006).

Maori traditions

Before the white man (Pakeha) came to New Zealand all forms of art passed from one generation to the next through word of mouth. The arts that are passed down includes; legends and songs. The generation that succeeded the other was told all the legends that surrounded their origin. Songs, which were also known as, Waiata was taught to the succeeding generation. The most common custom today is the Haka that is a warfare dance. This was a sign of good omen.

The Maori people wear tattoos or moko as is known in their culture. It is mainly a male activity. These tattoos were full faced for men but for the women they could only tattoo their chin areas, upper lip, and the nostrils. This still goes on in the modern world as the Maori people try to conserve their culture and identity (McCarthy, 2007).

The Maori Food

First is that the Maori people have their own traditional food known as Hangi. They cook their food in the earth. They dig a pit and arrange stones in it. The heat the stones and then cover them with cabbage leaves or watercress. This prevents the food from burning. They lower into this pit a basketful of mutton, potatoes, chicken, pork, and kumera, which are sweet potatoes. They cover this food with a mutton cloth. They finally place the earth on top to keep in the steam. This food takes almost three hours to cook. The hangi is extremely admired and is a practical option to a weekend barbecue. The distinctive taste of hangi is that of steamed food mixed with earthen taste. In conclusion, this traditional food is particularly significant for the Maori people.

The Maori religion

Secondly is that the religion plays a significant role in the Maori. They customize their religion from that one of their tropical, eastern Polynesian homeland. It envisions everything including natural elements as being linked through an ordinary descend, which is whakapapa. They thought that all things possess some life force or Mauri as commonly known. For example, they believed that Tangaroa is the personification for the ocean and is therefore, responsible for the origin of all fish. Tane belonged to the forest and was therefore, the god of all the origin of birds. Rongo represented nonviolent activities and cultivation and was therefore, the predecessor of cultivated plants. Some theories state that the supreme god of the connectedness is a being called Lo.

The Maori people performed several practices. These practices are Tapu and Mana. Mana means spiritual power or essence. This means that some people have the power. For example in the earlier times, people from the higher rank were not allowed to touch objects that belong to people of a lower rank. It was seen as some form of contamination, and people of a lower rank could not touch the objects of high-ranked people. This is because they could jeopardize their lives. On the other hand, Tapu meant spiritual prohibition. They should not do some things. This is the strongest force in the Maori life. Its violation could lead to serious consequences. There are two types of Tapu, the private, which defined what individuals should not do, and the public Tapu, which restricted the communities. Tapu is still observed in the current Maori life especially in matters related to death, sickness, and burial. Religion in the Maori culture was strictly followed. When Christianity came into existence some of the Maori people converted to it. However, most Maori people have converted to Christianity. The Christian prayer known as Karakia is the sure way to begin and end most of the Maori meetings. The modern religious practices of the Maori people are seen as utilizing Christianity to preserve their traditional ways. The Maori culture is, therefore, reinforced by their strong believe in gods and respect for their culture (Best, 2005).

The Maori language

Thirdly is that the Maori people speaks a language known as Te reo Maori language belongs to these inhabitants of New Zealand. The Maori language has the status of an official speech. The three official languages in New Zealand include Maori language, English, and the New Zealand sign language. The Maori language attained the status of an official language with the passing of the Maori language act in 1987.

The Maori language is a combination of several languages. Local linguists say that this language combines different words from languages in Eastern Polynesia. It is closely related to Cook Islands Maori, Tahitian, and Tuamotian. It also relates distantly to languages Western Polynesia. These languages include Tongan and Tokelauan. Therefore, the Maori language is established. It has attained an official status (Curnow, 2002).

Conclusion

To sum up, the Maori culture is a rich culture that has taken to board the modern aspects of life. The Maori people have a sophisticated lifestyle. They have their own traditional food, language and religion. They are, therefore, recognized because of their unique traditions.

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