Maori culture in the thermal village
The center of New Zealand’s north island is a volcanic region and is geologically fascinating. The land is characterized by hot thermal streams, steam vents, geysers and the smell of sulfur. In Rotorua we visited Tewhakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao, a living Maori village where the inhabitants used the unusual features of this land to their advantage. The villagers have created a type of stone oven which they build over the steam vents to cook their food. They also use the vents to heat water so they can have hot baths. There are many sulfur vents in this village often right beside and sometimes underneath the houses. As these vents can open up anywhere at anytime whenever one opens beneath a house it has to be condemned and the inhabitants moved as the trapped gases become toxic and can kill those living there. The Maoris maintain that the vents – and their accompanying rotten egg odor – are beneficial for the health when out in the open.
In Whakarewarewa village we saw a short concert of traditional songs and dances including the well known Haka dance. The Haka dance, meaning breath (ha) fire (ka), was used by Maori warriors to scare off intruders and hopefully avoid confrontation. The dance includes gestures like widened eyes and protruded tongues meant to make the warrior look ugly and terrifying and the stamping of feet, yelling and beating of chests to call the men in neighbouring villages to assemble and prepare for imminent battle. The other songs performed were similar to Carribbean music with swaying rhythms, six part harmonies, guitar and traditional percussion instruments.