It’s time to learn about the Maori’s via a hands on approach. We signed up for three Maori workshops the other day which are being held by the botanical gardens near Hamilton. Put on by the local Maori community especially for the Rugby World Cup, we arrived nice and early to begin our first workshop of the day – learning to paddle on the Waka (a traditional Maori canoe).
We headed to the appropriate outdoor tent where we were given a brief history of the Waka and a quick training session. These canoes were traditionally used for everything, including fishing, transport as well as war canoes. We had to sit on chairs laid out as you would sit on the Waka and pretend to paddle under the leader’s orders. With our life jackets around us, we headed to the river where we boarded the canoe one by one.
As we paddled, we had to repeat everything the leader said and at one point we had to shout as loud as we could, the idea being that it would scare our enemies. It was pretty easy upstream but on the way back it was a little tougher as we were going against the current. It was only about a 25 minute boat trip but by the end of it, my arm was a little achey. Pathetic I know! It was really good fun and we got back a little later than expected which meant that our next workshop had already started.
No problems though and we quietly slipped into the weaponry workshop. First of all we learnt how to use various Maori weapons and some self defence techniques. And in the spirit of the Rugby World Cup, we then learnt how to do the Haka before performing it in a little tent to a very small audience.
Next up…LUNCH!! We were served a traditional Maori lunch called a Hangi. It consisted of some very succulent meat (chicken I think), some potatoes and veg, all cooked under ground. It was delicious and they gave us a fairly big portion so we were pretty full by the end of it.
After lunch, there was a little ceremony whereby the chief of the Maoris had to lead us inside a tent for a theatre performance put on by the local Maori’s This involved them dancing and singing. It was really nice. Then came the audience participation bit.
I got dragged on stage by one of the female dancers to learn how to use these pom pom accessories which are traditionally tied to the women’s skirts. They used them to dance with. I was so awkward on the stage that all I was doing was just swinging it round and round.
Then came the boys turn. John got up on stage to do the Haka! He missed a few moves but overall, it was a very good effort, better than mine anyway!
After the performance, we headed to our third and final workshop – learning to weave with grass. We attempted to make a caterpillar first, then a rose and then we tied it all together to look like a bunch of flowers. John, surprisingly, was the best out of all of us!
It’s been a great day and I think we’re very lucky to have come across this workshop as it was only put on because of the Rugby World Cup. And for only £25 each, this was a real bargain for all these activities in New Zealand. Another thoroughly enjoyable day!