New Zealand Culture

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  • New Zealand Culture

The culture of New Zealand is largely inherited from British and European custom, interwoven with Maori and Polynesian tradition. Polynesians settled New Zealand in 1250–1300 CE and developed a distinctive Māori culture. Māori mythology is a distinctive corpus of gods and heroes, sharing some Polynesian motifs. Some notable figures are Rangi and Papa, Māui, and Kupe. 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. Central to many cultural events is the marae, where families and tribes gather for special occasions, such as pōwhiri or tangi. Māori culture continues to play an important part in everyday life and government and corporate symbolism with abundant opportunities for visitors to understand and experience both the history and present day forms of Māori life. Non-Māori Polynesian cultures are also apparent, with Pasifika, the world's largest Polynesian festival, now an annual event in Auckland.

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. Within Pākehā culture are sub-cultures derived from Irish, Italian and other European groups, as well as various non-ethnic subcultures.

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. In particular, some have argued that rugby is the national religion.

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust 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. 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 Lord of the Rings trilogy director Peter Jackson becoming one of film's most successful directors.

Now, New Zealand has a cosmopolitan, multicultural culture that reflects its changing demographics, is conscious of the natural environment, and is an educated, developed Western society.