The other night we went to the dinner show at Tamaki Maori Village outside Rotorua.
During the half hour ride out to the venue, our bus driver told us the story of how his Polynesian ancestors made epic sea voyages in their ‘waka’ or canoes and invited us to imagine our tour bus as a modern analogue. Although he didn’t say analogue exactly, now that I think of it.
Prov owned up to some knowledge of cricket and so (but of course!) was elected our Chief. On arriving, he and the Chiefs from the other waka met the ritual challenge of the ‘powhiri’ …
… and were greeted by the hosts with the ritual ‘hongi’ …
… granting us welcome, but coming with a chief-to-chief suggestion nonetheless to keep our hands off their ‘wahine’ :
We heard how the founders of this enterprise sold their beloved Harley Davidson motorcycle to raise funds, but that this sacrifice was worth it to preserve and share their proud culture. This origin story was delivered without any trace of irony, which was almost as miraculous as the whole seagoing canoe thing.
We had games and arts and crafts demos in the village …
… before heading in for a ‘hangi’, dinner steamed over a pit of hot coals. The food was good, better than any of us expected.
There was singing and dancing, a ‘haka’ lesson for the menfolk, and so on. On the bus ride back the driver got us all singing along… he was not a particularly good singer but somehow had a vast musicality under his smoker’s wheeze. We all joined in, especially when he took the wheels on the bus round and round a roundabout multiple times.
So, tourist trap? Yes. Entertaining? Also yes. Educational? I think yes. Culturally uplifting and appropriate? I can only hope. I suppose there are learned and passionate people with lots of views on what ‘Maori culture’ today even means, and on how best to honor it. Hopefully we helped, or at least didn’t hurt, that work.