Culture of New Zealand facts for kids
The culture of New Zealand is essentially a Western culture influenced by the unique environment and geographic isolation of the islands, and the cultural input of the indigenous Māori and the various waves of multi-ethnic migration which followed the British colonisation of New Zealand.
Polynesian explorers reached the islands between 1250 and 1300 CE. Over the ensuing centuries of Polynesian expansion and settlement, Māori culture developed from its Polynesian roots. Māori established separate tribes, built fortified villages (Pā), hunted and fished, traded commodities, developed agriculture, arts and weaponry, and kept a detailed oral history. Regular European contact began from 1800, and British immigration proceeded rapidly, especially from 1855. Colonists had a dramatic effect on the Māori, bringing Christianity, advanced technology, the English language, numeracy and literacy. In 1840 Māori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, intended to enable the tribes to live peacefully with the colonists. However, after several incidents, the New Zealand wars broke out from 1845, with Māori suffering a loss of land, partly through confiscation, but mainly through widespread and extensive land sales. Māori retained their identity, mostly choosing to live separately from settlers and continuing to speak and write te reo Māori. With mass migration from Britain, a high Māori death rate and low life expectancy for Māori women, the indigenous population figure dropped between 1850 and 1930, becoming a minority.
European New Zealanders (Pākehā), despite their location far from Europe, retained strong cultural ties to "Mother England". These ties were weakened by the demise of the British Empire and loss of special access to British meat and dairy markets. Pākehā began to forge a separate identity influenced by their pioneering history, a rural lifestyle and New Zealand's unique environment. Pākehā culture became prevalent after the wars, but after sustained political efforts, biculturalism and the Treaty of Waitangi became part of the school curriculum in the late 20th century, to promote understanding between Māori and Pākehā.
More recently, New Zealand culture has been broadened by globalisation and immigration from the Pacific Islands, East Asia and South Asia. Non-Māori Polynesian cultures are apparent, with Pasifika, the world's largest Polynesian festival, now an annual event in Auckland.
New Zealand marks two national days of remembrance, Waitangi Day and ANZAC Day, and also celebrates holidays during or close to the anniversaries of the founding dates of each province. New Zealand has two national anthems of equal status; "God Save the Queen" and "God Defend New Zealand"—the latter of which is often sung with alternating Māori and English verses. Many citizens prefer to minimise ethnic divisions, simply calling themselves New Zealanders or Kiwis.
- Māori culture
- Pākehā culture
- Cultural borrowing and adaptation
The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand (Aotearoa) who first arrived In New Zealand about 1280. They arrived from Eastern Polynesia, most likely the Society Islands. In 2014 demographers believe about 100-200 Polynesians migrants arrived at a similar time. Māori settled the islands and developed a distinct culture over several hundred years.
Oral history tells of a long voyage from Hawaiki (the mythical homeland in tropical Polynesia) in large ocean-going canoes (waka). Māori mythology is a distinctive corpus of gods and heroes, sharing some Polynesian motifs. Some notable figures are Rangi and Papa, Māui, and Kupe.
Central to many cultural events is the marae, where families and tribes gather for special occasions, such as pōwhiri or tangi. Māori often call themselves "tāngata whenua" (people of the land), placing particular importance on a lifestyle connected to land and sea. Communal living, sharing, and living off the land are strong traditional values.
The distinct values, history, and worldview of Maori are expressed through traditional arts and skills such as haka, tā moko, waiata, carving, weaving, and poi. The concept of tapu (meaning taboo or sacred) is also a strong force in Māori culture, applied to objects, people, or even mountains.
Europeans migrated to New Zealand in increasing numbers from 1855. Māori traditional penchant for war, especially between 1805 and 1842 during the Musket Wars and diseases introduced destabilized traditional Māori society. The Treaty of Waitangi 1840 formed the basis of the establishment of British rule over New Zealand. New Zealand became partly self-governing in 1852 with the establishment of its own Parliament. The most serious conflict between Māori and European settlers was between 1863 and 1864 which resulted in land being confiscated from the defeated tribes. However Māori sold most of their land after 1870 and continued to do so until the 1980s. From 1820 Maori entered a long period of cultural and numerical decline. However their population began to increase again from the late 19th century, and a cultural revival began in the 1960s, sometimes known as the Māori Renaissance.
Pākehā culture (usually synonymous with New Zealand European) derives mainly from that of the British, particularly English settlers who colonised New Zealand in the nineteenth century. Although it is recognisably related to British culture, it has always had distinct differences, and these have increased over time. Things which distinguish Pākehā culture from British culture include higher levels of egalitarianism and the idea that most people can do most things if they put their minds to it. Within Pākehā culture are sub-cultures derived from Irish, Italian and other European groups, as well as various non-ethnic subcultures.
It has been claimed that Pākehā do not actually have a culture, or if they do it is not a distinct one. Part of the problem is that high culture is often mistaken for culture in general, and the lack of recognition historically given to New Zealand's artists, writers and composers is seen as evidence of a lack of culture. In contrast, Pākehā pop culture is generally highly visible and valued.
Others argue that belief in the 'absence' of culture in NZ is a symptom of white privilege, allowing members of a dominant group to see their culture as 'normal' or 'default', rather than as a specific position of relative advantage. One of the goals of Pākehā anti-racist groups of the 1980s was to enable Pākehā to see their own culture as such, rather than thinking what they did was normal and what other people did was 'ethnic' and strange.
A different perspective is that Kiwi culture is based on "rugby, racing and beer". Many New Zealanders either play or support their local rugby team and the All Blacks are national icons. Some have argued that rugby is the national religion.
Cultural borrowing and adaptation
Māori borrowing from Pākehā culture
Since the arrival of Europeans, Māori have been receptive adopters of most aspects of Pākehā culture. From the 1830s many Māori nominally converted to Christianity and in the process learned to read and write, by the late nineteenth century New Zealand when formal schooling finished for most at 12, Māori were as likely to be literate as Pākehā. A number of religions, such as Pai Marire and Ringatu, arose in the nineteenth century, blending Māori tradition and Christianity.
Similarly Māori traditional chants were put to Victorian music, or written to European tunes, European designs and metal tools adopted by carvers, altering their style and British fabrics and cloth, such as blanketing adopted to form new dress. The horse was adopted, particularly on the East coast. European tools and particularly weapons were frequently decorated with traditional motifs, for example wooden musket and rifle stocks acquired elaborate carving. From the 1820s Māori began building vessels in the European boat building tradition. Many of these activities were conducted in collaboration with Pakeha traders and settlers.
After the defeat of rebel Māori who attempted to establish a renegade state in the King Country, the adoption of Pākehā culture became less of a free choice as Pākehā began to outnumber Māori. Parliament to passed legislation affecting Māori, such as the Native Schools Act (1867) which required English to be the dominant medium of instruction for Māori children although this was weakly enforced. Māori generally supported this progressive move. The majority of Māori encouraged their children to learn the English language and Pākehā ways of life to function economically and socially. From the 1880s a small number of western educated graduates emerged from Māori colleges such as Te Aute. Men such as Pomare, Ngata and Buck believed that further adopting Pakeha culture would advance Māori in New Zealand. Together they formed the Young Māori Party which was very influential in starting improved health and education for Māori. All believed to some extent in redeveloping an interest in Māori arts and craft. Ngata went on to become a leading New Zealand politician and acting Prime Minister. Māori traditional culture became less critical in normal everyday life as advanced western technology- electricity, lights telegraphy, roads, mass production radio, aeroplanes and refrigeration made most aspects of Māori culture redundant but was still practiced at events such as tangi(funerals). From the early twentieth century and especially from the 1970s, Māori activists began to protest against Eurocentrism and demanded equal recognition for their own culture.
Many Māori have become successful practitioners of European-derived art forms; indeed many of New Zealand's biggest arts success stories are Māori or part Māori. These include opera singers Inia Te Wiata and Kiri Te Kanawa, novelists Keri Hulme (winner of the Booker Prize) and Alan Duff, poet Hone Tuwhare and painter Ralph Hotere, actors Temuera Morrison and Cliff Curtis and director Lee Tamahori. Māori culture has also provided inspiration to Pakeha artists.
Pākehā borrowing from Māori culture
Since the late nineteenth century, Pākehā have used Maori cultural practices when they required something distinctive. The most famous example of this is the haka of the All Blacks, a Māori posture dance which is performed before international rugby matches (there are many non-Māori Polynesian All Blacks, thus making this a multi-ethnic borrowing). However Pākehā artists such as Colin McCahon and Gordon Walters have also incorporated Māori motifs into their art, and a number of early Pākehā writers used Māori themes and topics in an effort to create an authentically New Zealand literature. The tourist industry has also made heavy use of Māori culture in an effort to present tourists with distinctly New Zealand experiences and items. Many Pākehā in other countries use an aspect of Māori culture to express their New Zealandness. An example of this is the mass haka which takes place in Parliament Square in London every Waitangi Day. Although Māori are generally involved, most participants are Pākehā.
For many years Pākehā did not consult Māori over the use of their culture, and Māori generally did not protest loudly unless a symbol was being used in a particularly inappropriate way. From the 1970s, Māori increasingly began to object to Pākehā use of their culture, especially when this use was disrespectful. One example of this is the "haka party attack" of 1979. University of Auckland engineering students had a tradition of performing a mock haka at graduation. After pleas from Māori students to discontinue the practice were ignored, a group assaulted the engineering students. They were later charged with assault but defended by Māori elders who testified that the engineers' haka was deeply offensive. Most Pākehā are now more respectful of Māori culture and often consult Māori before using Māori cultural forms. However, despite some attempts to copyright cultural intellectual property this does not always occur and forms are still sometimes used in inappropriate ways.
Some Pākehā have been deeply involved in the revival of otherwise lost Māori arts. In the performance of traditional Māori musical instruments Richard Nunns has earned wide respect, as have the contributions made by many academics, for example, Dame Anne Salmond in the area of traditional rituals of encounter, or Mervyn McLean in the analysis of traditional song. Māori history has mainly been written by Pakeha authors such as Michael King, James Belich and Paul Moon. Traditionally Māori were reluctant to reveal their tribal knowledge to Europeans for fear of being mocked or considered barbaric, and also a belief in keeping tribal secrets. When Kingitanga allowed Michael King to write the biography of "Princess" Te Puea, because of his sensitivity to Māori, they still withheld material that would not show her in a good light.
Borrowing from overseas
Both Māori and Pākehā have borrowed cultural forms and styles from other countries, particularly Britain and the United States. Most popular New Zealand music derives from Anglo-American styles, particularly rock music, hip-hop, electronic dance music and related subgenres. Although there is evidence of a "New Zealand style", many groups incorporate New Zealand themes into their work, so this style affects each genre differently. More recently however from the start of the 21st century Dub-step, Drum and Bass, Jungle Trance and related subgenres, derived from England, has been further developed by New Zealanders into a unique sound, exemplified by Salmonella Dub, Shapeshifter and many others.
The visual arts have also shown the influence of international movements, for example cubism in the early work of Colin McCahon. In general, the development of international mass media and mass communication has meant New Zealanders have always been aware of developments in other countries; this lends itself to the adoption of new forms and styles from overseas.
New Zealand has three official languages: New Zealand English, Te Reo Māori (the Māori language), and New Zealand Sign Language. In practice only English is widely used although major efforts have been made in recent years to nurture Te Reo. Numerous other languages are spoken in New Zealand due to its high racial diversity as a country.
New Zealand English
New Zealand English is close to Australian English in pronunciation, but has several differences often overlooked by people from outside these countries. The most prominent differences between the New Zealand English dialect and other English dialects are the shifts in the short front vowels: the short-"i" sound (as in "kit") has centralised towards the schwa sound (the "a" in "comma" and "about"); the short-"e" sound (as in "dress") has moved towards the short-"i" sound; and the short-"a" sound (as in "trap") has moved to the short-"e" sound. Some of these differences show New Zealand English to have more affinity with the English of southern England than Australian English does. Several of the differences also show the influence of Māori speech. The New Zealand accent also has some Scottish and Irish influences from the large number of settlers from those places during the 19th century. At the time of the 2013 census, English was spoken by 93% of the total population.
Te Reo Māori
New Zealand Sign Language
New Zealand Sign Language has its roots in British Sign Language (BSL), and may be technically considered a dialect of British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Language (BANZSL). There are 62.5% similarities found in British Sign Language and NZSL, compared with 33% of NZSL signs found in American Sign Language. Like other natural sign languages, it was devised by and for Deaf people, with no linguistic connection to a spoken or written language, and it is fully capable of expressing anything a fluent signer wants to say. It uses more lip-patterns in conjunction with hand and facial movement to cue signs than BSL, reflecting New Zealand's history of oralist education of deaf people. Its vocabulary includes Māori concepts such as marae and tangi, and signs for New Zealand placenames. New Zealand Sign Language became an official language of New Zealand in April 2006. About 20,000 people use New Zealand Sign Language.
According to the 2013 census, 174 languages are used in New Zealand (including sign languages). As recorded in the 2013 census, Samoan is the most widely spoken non-official language (2.2%), followed by Hindi (1.7%), "Northern Chinese" (including Mandarin, 1.3%) and French (1.2%).
New Zealand has two 'high cultural' traditions: Māori and Western. However most cultural material consumed in New Zealand is imported from overseas, particularly from Britain and the United States. Because of this and New Zealand's small population, most New Zealand artists, performers and writers struggle to make a living from their art. Some funding for the arts is provided through a specific arts based government department, Creative New Zealand. Heritage New Zealand and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage are national bodies that assist with heritage preservation. Most towns and cities have museums and often art galleries, and the national museum and art gallery is Te Papa ('Our Place'), in Wellington.
Pre-Colonial Māori visual art had two main forms: carving and weaving. Both recorded stories and legends and also had religious roles.
When Settlers arrived, they brought with them Western artistic traditions. Early Pākehā art focussed mainly on landscape painting, although some of the best known Pākehā artists of the nineteenth century (Charles Goldie and Gottfried Lindauer) specialised in Māori portraiture. Some Māori adopted Western styles and a number of nineteenth century meeting houses feature walls painted with portraits and plant designs. From the early twentieth century Āpirana Ngata and others began a programme of reviving traditional Māori arts, and many new meeting houses were built with traditional carving and tukutuku woven wall panels were built. A longstanding concern of Pākehā artists has been the creation of a distinctly New Zealand artistic style. Rita Angus and others used the landscape to try and achieve this while painters such as Gordon Walters used Māori motifs. A number of Māori artists, including Paratene Matchitt and Shane Cotton have combined Western modernism with traditional Māori art.
Kapa haka, (kapa meaning 'rank' or 'row' and haka referring to a Māori dance), is the 'cultural dance' component of traditional Māori Performing Arts. Kapa haka is an avenue for Māori people to express their heritage and cultural identity through song and dance. It has undergone a renaissance, with national competitions held yearly and kapa haka used in many state occasions. The haka (often mistaken as always being a war dance or ritual challenge) has become part of wider New Zealand culture, being performed by the All Blacks as a group ritual before international games and by homesick New Zealanders of all races who want to express their New Zealandness.
New Zealand drama, both on stage and screen, has been plagued during much of its history by cost and lack of popular interest in New Zealand culture. Despite this Roger Hall and, more recently, Jacob Rajan are two playwrights to achieve considerable popular success. In recent decades New Zealand film has grown dramatically, with the films Once Were Warriors, The Piano and Heavenly Creatures doing well both locally and internationally, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy director Peter Jackson becoming one of film's most successful directors. New Zealand's most popular comedian was the late Billy T. James.
New Zealand music has been influenced by blues, jazz, country, rock and roll and hip hop, with many of these genres given a unique New Zealand interpretation. Hip-hop is popular and there are small but thriving live music, dance party and indie music scenes. Reggae is also popular within some communities, with bands such as The Herbs, Katchafire, 1814, House Of Shem, Unity Pacific all reflecting their roots, perspectives and cultural pride and heritage through their music.
A number of popular artists have gone on to achieve international success including Lorde, Split Enz, Crowded House, OMC, Bic Runga, Kimbra, Ladyhawke, The Naked and Famous, Fat Freddy's Drop, Savage, Flight of the Conchords, and Brooke Fraser.
New Zealand has a national orchestra and many regional orchestras. A number of New Zealand composers have developed international reputations. The most well-known include Douglas Lilburn, John Psathas, Jack Body, Gillian Whitehead, Jenny McLeod, Gareth Farr, Ross Harris, and Martin Lodge.
In recent decades New Zealand comics have risen in popularity and recognition. In the 1970s and 1980s Billy T James satirized race relations, and McPhail & Gadsby lampooned political figures, especially Robert Muldoon. John Clarke aka Fred Dagg joked about rural life. From the 1990s onwards the Naked Samoans expressed a Polynesian sense of humour to the nation, and Raybon Kan is a prominent Asian comic and columnist. The Topp Twins are an off-beat comic/country music duo, and Flight of the Conchords have become famous throughout the English-speaking world for their self-effacing show.
New Zealand's most successful early writers were expatriates such as Katherine Mansfield. From the 1950s, Frank Sargeson, Janet Frame and others had (non lucrative) writing careers while still living in New Zealand. Until about the 1980s, the main New Zealand literary form was the short story, but in recent decades novels such as Alan Duff's Once Were Warriors, Elizabeth Knox's The Vintner's Luck and others have achieved critical and popular success. Māori culture is traditionally oral rather than literate, but in recent years Māori novelists such as Duff, Witi Ihimaera and Keri Hulme and poets such as Hone Tuwhare have shown their mastery of European-originated forms. Austin Mitchell wrote two "Pavlova Paradise" books about New Zealand. Barry Crump was a popular author who embodied and expounded the myth of the Kiwi larrikin and multi-skilled labourer. Sam Hunt and Gary McCormick are well-known poets. James K Baxter was an eccentric but admired author. Maurice Gee is also a household name for his novels about New Zealand life.
New Zealand cartoonist David Low became famous during World War II for his political satire. Gordon Minhinnick and Les Gibbard were also witty political observers. Murray Ball drew a widely popular syndicated daily strip Footrot Flats, about farm life.
Pre-Colonial native Māori religion was polytheistic. One of its major features was tapu (sacred and/or forbidden), which was used to maintain the status of chiefs and tohunga (priests) and also for purposes such as conserving resources. Some of the earliest European settlers in New Zealand were Christian missionaries, mostly from the Church of England but also from Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church. From the 1830s onwards, large numbers of Māori converted. Throughout the nineteenth century a number of movements emerged which blended traditional Māori beliefs with Christianity. These included Pai Marire, Ringatu, and in the early twentieth century, Ratana. They typically centred on a prophet-leader. These churches continue to attract a substantial following; according to the 2013 census, 50,565 people are Ratana believers, and another 16,419 are Ringatu. 1,689 people stated that they followed Māori religion. Many Māori members of mainstream churches, and those with no particular religion, continue to believe in tapu, particularly where the dead are concerned, although not to the same extent as their ancestors.
Pākehā have become steadily less religious over the course of the twentieth century. In the 1920s there was still a reasonably high level of sectarianism and anti-Catholic prejudice, but this has since died down and the major churches generally co-operate with each other. The churches and religious lobby groups have little political influence where Pākehā are concerned. The vast majority of religious Pākehā are Christian, but a small number follow non-Christian religions, particularly Buddhism, and a larger number have a vague belief in new age ideas such as the healing power of crystals.
In 2013, the number of people who affiliated with a Christian denomination (including Māori Christian) decreased to 1,906,398 (48.9% of all people who stated their religious affiliation), down from 2,082,942 (55.6%) in 2006. Affiliation to non-Christian religions has increased since the 2006 census. As of 2013[update], the number of Hindus numbered 88,919, Muslims 46,149 and Sikhs 19,191. The number and proportion of people indicating they had no religion increased between 2006 and 2013. In 2013, more than 2 in 5 people (41.9 percent) reported they had no religion. 1,635,345 New Zealanders identified with no religion at the 2013 census.
It is very common for New Zealanders to travel or live overseas for extended periods of time, often on working holidays. These are usually referred to as the 'OE' or 'overseas experience', and are most commonly taken by people in their 20s. The three most common destinations are Australia, Great Britain and Europe, although recently trips to Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan to teach English have become increasingly popular. The east coast of Australia and London both have sizeable expatriate New Zealand communities.
The OE to Europe is usually self-funded, and tends to occur a few years after university graduation, when the traveller has saved up enough for airfares and living expenses. The length of the visit can range from a few months to the remainder of the visitor's life; since many New Zealanders have British ancestry or dual citizenship (sometimes as a result of their parents' OE), the restrictions on working in Britain do not apply to a substantial percentage of them.
Working holidays in Asia are more likely to occur shortly after graduation, and many agencies specifically target graduates for these trips. Because Australia is relatively close to New Zealand and has no restrictions on New Zealanders working there, the New Zealanders working in Australia are more diverse than those in other countries, with a significantly higher proportion of Māori and working-class people.
Since the signing of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement in 1973, New Zealanders have had the right to live and work in Australia on equal terms with Australian citizens. Until the 1970s New Zealanders had similar rights in relation to Britain. Changes to British immigration law in this period required New Zealanders to obtain visas to work in Britain or live there for extended periods, unless they had recent British ancestry.
New Zealand has a number of reciprocal working holiday agreements, allowing people in their 20s to live and work overseas, usually for up to a year. Such agreements are in place with: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.
Māori cuisine was historically derived from that of tropical Polynesia, adapted for New Zealand's colder climate. Key ingredients included kūmara (sweet potato), fern root, taro, birds and fish. Food was cooked in hāngi (earth ovens) and roasted, and in geothermal areas was boiled or steamed using natural hot springs and pools. Various means of preserving birds and other foods were also employed. Māori were one of the few peoples to have no form of alcoholic beverage.
Following the arrival of British settlers, Māori adopted many of their foods, especially pork and potatoes, the latter of which transformed the Māori agricultural economy. Many traditional food sources became scarce as introduced predators dramatically reduced bird populations, and forests were cleared for farming and timber. Traditional seafoods such as toheroa and whitebait were over-harvested. Present day Māori cuisine is a mixture of Māori tradition, old fashioned English cookery, and contemporary dishes. In everyday life the two foods of Māori origin are "the boil up" (boiled up left over food meat and vegetable scraps sometimes thickened with flour), and the hāngi which is associated with special occasions.
The majority of Pākehā are of British descent, and so it is not surprising that Pākehā cuisine is very similar to British cuisine. Nineteenth-century British settlers in New Zealand tried as much as possible to reproduce the foods of their homeland. A major difference between British and Pākehā food was that meat was much more readily available to all social classes in New Zealand. A highly carnivorous diet remains a part of Pākehā culture, although red meat consumption has dropped in the last few decades. Like the British, Pākehā have traditionally been very fond of sweet foods, and the best of traditional Pākehā cooking consists of cakes, scones, muffins and desserts.
In recent decades Pākehā have discovered 'ethnic' food, and a 'foodie' culture has emerged. Most Pākehā food is not significantly different from modern British cuisine, although New Zealand chefs such as Peter Gordon played a major part in the creation of fusion cuisine.
New Zealanders increasingly come from many ethnic backgrounds, and most immigrants to New Zealand have tried to reproduce their native cuisines or national dishes in New Zealand. Ethnic restaurants have served as community meeting places and have also given other New Zealanders a chance to try different cuisines.
The evolution of café culture has been a major part of growth within New Zealand. Cafés and the perfection of espresso coffee making throughout most of New Zealand have led to a unique part of the life of the country.
Culture of New Zealand Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.