Arts and Culture in New Zealand

New Zealand has a rich multi-cultural atmosphere that comes as a result of centuries of accepting migrants from all over the world. The British first colonised New Zealand in the mid nineteenth century and since then, thousands of migrants have come to call New Zealand home. This cultural melting pot is evident in the food, fashion, art and music in New Zealand today.

New Zealand has a strong performing arts and music culture, with many successful Kiwi artists launching their international careers here. Touring and local performances run throughout the year across the country and include ballet, opera, live symphony, concerts, comedy acts and all forms of theatre.

New Zealanders, or Kiwi’s as they are sometimes colloquially referred to (a reference to their famous native kiwi bird) are warm, generous people who are famous for their hospitality. They are friendly and informal, and use first names in nearly all circumstances, including business. Your university lecturers will use their first names, although more prominent university officers, such as the chancellor and vice-chancellor, should be addressed in a more official capacity.

And then there’s New Zealand’s first and most important migrants, their indigenous Maori people. The Maori people, who are also known as tangata whenua, or ‘people of the land’ are believed to have ‘migrated’ to New Zealand around 1300AD from various parts of Polynesia. New Zealand parliament signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, which recognised the Maori’s land rights.

New Zealand’s indigenous culture is deep rooted and evident everywhere. Many arms of the government are dedicated to Maori rights and the Maori language is one of the official languages of New Zealand’s – your universities motto will probably be in Maori. In a 2006 census, 1 in 7 New Zealanders identified themselves as Maori.

New Zealand has laws in place to prevent discrimination. If you feel you are being discriminated against due to your race, sex or gender, you should speak to a university.

The Maori Culture and Traditions

Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, all storytelling and literature was oral in nature and recital. The most widely k known Maori traditions is the “Haka”, or the war dance.

This ceremony was designed to intimidate the enemy prior to the commencement of war but it now has more sportive purpose. The dance is now the chant of the almighty All Blacks New Zealand rugby team.

Another striking aspect of the Maori culture is the intricate tattoos that mark the Maori. Full-faced tattoo was traditionally reserved for men and the practice is now increasingly becoming common as the Maori fight to preserve the old ways.

The Maori cooking is referred to as Hangi or earthen cooking. Food is cooked over hot stones and covered with earth to prevent the heat from escaping. This produces steamed food cooked in an earth oven.

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