Culture and Arts New Zealand

Culture and Arts New Zealand

Maori culture

- myths common to everyone Polynesians, from which the Maoris come, tell how the demigod Maui would have fished the North Island from the bottom of the oceans and how his petrified canoe would have become the South Island.
Other stories describe the arrival of Kupe, the first Maori, from Hawaiki, sacred land that some equate to the island of Raiatea (near Tahiti). It is he who names this immense land Aotearoa ("the land of the long white cloud"). Soon, other men and women join him: the history of New Zealand now merges with the Maori.
Historians confirm the legend, by locating migrations around the year 1000.

Over time, settlers developed their own social rules, their own forms of art and thought. They come together in extended families, the whanau (pronounced fanau), and in iwi, tribes whose common ancestors would have traveled in one and the same canoe.
On a daily basis, the gods and their intermediaries, priests and upper castes, impose their laws through a complex system of tapu (taboos).

Gradually, the increase in population, especially on the North Island, saw conflicts spread and the Maori became warriors formidable. A victory is an opportunity for chefs to extend their sacrosanct mana, their spiritual power, and that of their tribe. The first European explorers had a bitter experience of it, some of them ending up at the stake (vanities) and tasting cannibalism at their expense ...

Art and Crafts

Maori arts are those of all Polynesian peoples, revisited by a ancient local tradition: song, dance and tattooing. Song and dance, intimately linked, had (and still have to a certain extent) a vocation to count the history of ancestors, migrations, the exploits of missing heroes, the power of their mana, the beauty of the daughters of yesteryear, the landscapes , the strength of the gods and the fear they inspire.

Typically New Zealand, the haka, made famous by the All Blacks rugby players, was originally a war dance, also staged to test the reactions of unknown visitors and to impress possible enemies.

We can also attend the aesthetics poi dance, in which the dancers “juggle” with small balls attached to a string.

Primordial in the past, almost abandoned, and today in full renewal, the moko, the traditional tattoo, is also a Polynesian practice. Carried out in stages over the course of a lifetime, it sort of sums up its course, with its achievements, allowing the status of each person, and especially of the leaders, to appear in the eyes of all. Today we meet again Maoris with very impressive facial moko.
This fashion also flourishes on the white skins of non-Maori. And young college graduates are proud to wear traditional outfits in place of the black chasubles worn by students.


New Zealand film production took hold in the 1970s. Geoff Murphy is generally credited with the first real national hits, speaking of New Zealand subjects in New Zealand settings. To his credit, the road movies Goodbye Pork Pie (1981), Utu (1983) and The Last Survivor (The Quiet Earth, 1985).

In 1987, Ngati was the first feature film to be directed by a Maori. The most famous New Zealand film under our skies, however, remains The Piano by Jane Campion (1993), so wonderfully immersed in the colonial atmosphere. It is also the first New Zealand film to have received international awards.
The following year, 2 other films achieved a large audience: Heavenly Creatures by Peter Jackson with Kate Winslet, and Once Were Warriors by Lee Tamahori.

The last few years have been marked by the imprint of Peter Jackson, who started out making low-budget horror films, before shooting the Trilogy of Lord of the Rings (2001-2003), then The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), carried out in New Zealand with local teams. He was still the one who shot the remake of King Kong in 2005.

Some of the most famous New Zealand actors include:

  • Sam neill (The Piano Lesson, Jurassic Park);
  • the New Zealander-Canadian Anna paquin, who at age 12 received an Oscar for best supporting role in The Piano Lesson;
  • Russell Crowe, also Oscar winner for best actor.


The history of New Zealand literature really begins at the beginning of the XNUMXth century with two women. Katherine mansfield (1888-1923), whose free youth - dissolute, it was said at the time - withered away in European sanatoriums where she tried to cure her tuberculosis, truly began her career in 1920 with Miss Brill (Félicité), the portrait acidity of a fragile woman living a life of simple pleasures in Paris. Many recognize her as one of the best short story writers of the time.

Of a completely different kind, Lady Ngaio Marsh (circa 1895-1982) worked for the theater before becoming famous for his detective novels. In the 1930s and 1940s, she established herself as one of the four Anglo-Saxon “queens of crime” alongside Agatha Christie. The work of Dame Ngaio Marsh is most marked by features of humor.

The 1950s marked the explosion of New Zealand literature, the result of the rejection of formalism that was already emerging before the war. Modernism and social realities become driving forces of research, while a national feeling is finally defined, detached from Great Britain.
Among the first to win, Janet Frame (1924-2004) is a special case. This young woman diagnosed as schizophrenic, interned for 8 years in psychiatric hospitals, published in 1951 The Lagoon (Le Lagon), a collection of short stories whose success earned her to escape lobotomy! Approached for a candidacy for the Nobel, she died shortly before of leukemia. Jane Campion adapted her autobiography, Un ange à ma table.


The New Zealand daily press is above all Regional, but the titles of the larger cities are fairly widely distributed, particularly the New Zealand Herald in the Auckland region, the Dominion in Wellington and the Press on the South Island.
The foreign press is mainly Anglo-Saxon.

On the small screen side, the national channels TV1 and TV2 sit alongside the private TV3 and C4 (music), belonging to the same group, Australian Prime and MTS, Maori television (programs in Maori and English).

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