When a traveler first arrives in a certain country or city, everything seems foreign and different. After a few weeks some things might start to feel familiar and certain sights might become part of the ususal landscape. When months have gone by even the most distracted of people can know what everyday life looks and feels like in the place they now call home. If you are in Auckland-the biggest city in New Zealand-things are no different, except, it would take a New Zealander or an Aucklander to realize certain things that are even complicated for Kiwis themselves.
Ok, maybe that is very confusing for you…well it is confusing for everybody. I’ll do my best at explaining what I mean. When arriving to New Zealand, you will find out that it is a bicultural country, made up of English and other European descendants and of Maori people-the indigenous group that populated New Zealand originally. So far so good? Because it is about to get complicated.
|View of Auckland from Mount Eden|
Auckland is a fantastic city. It is beautiful and bouyant. It is alive and it is full of people from different nationalities. Tons of migrants. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is very controversial and depends on every person’s point of view, however, when a city is as diverse as the City of Sails, it has many social consequences. One of those being that the divisory line between the indigenous culture and the modernity of the city becomes very blurry and sometimes it even disappears.
Such is the case in Auckland, where Maori philosophy strives to survive amidst the growth that the city experiences. Traditionally, Maori households are built around the concept of whanau which means family…but it also means extended family, and tribe, and group of friends, and community (Gagné, 1975). This concept has expanded and shrak as it tries to adapt to the changes that Maori society experiences in the city. Like this, there are many other concepts and traditions that become foggy when apartment buidlings, T.V. and high paced lives become a part of the picture.
It is interesting yet confusing to find out that some of the most spiritually significant Maori landmarks of New Zealand are in Auckland, and that they peacefully rest besides the crazyness of the city. This exact contraditction goes on in the lives of Maori people in the City of Sails, while they try balance their traditions and beliefs with the reality of being a part of a large metropolis.
|The Skytower in Auckland.|
This constant battle between two worlds is not easy to point out and is not visible to the naked eye, especially if you are a visitor in Auckland. However, it is impossible to ignore it once you come in touch with Te Ao Maori (Maori culture) and New Zealand’s history.
If you are ever in Auckland, I recommend that you try to dive as deeply as possible into this problematic, you might even discover that your city has a similar situation.
Gagné, N. (1975). Being Maori in the City. Indigenous Everyday Life in Auckland. University of Toronto Press.