Auckland is a major city with a population of around 1.5 million. It is located on an isthmus between two harbors – one on the Tasman Sea, and one on the Pacific Ocean – all of which were created by volcanic activity. Because of this it’s all hilly with amazing views over water and beaches, pretty much in any direction that you look. What an incredible place! I imagine that people who enjoy water activities would gravitate to Auckland to live and work. It’s all on their doorstep! We knew that we had a great deal to learn about New Zealand in general so headed to the Auckland War Memorial Museum (located on top of a hill with an amazing view).
We started with a Museum Tour. I love to wander through museums, getting information from the wall plaques, but there is nothing quite like being able to hear from and ask questions of a local who really knows their stuff. The museum was built as – you guessed it – a war memorial in 1929. From their website: The Museum tells the story of New Zealand, its place in the Pacific and its people. The Museum is a war memorial for the province of Auckland and holds one of New Zealand’s top three heritage libraries. It has pre-eminent Māori and Pacific collections, significant natural history resources and major social and military history collections, as well as decorative arts and pictorial collections.
The stained glass ceiling in this room was really beautiful. It contained coats of arms of each of the countries that fought alongside New Zealand during The Great War. The names of those who died fighting for their country were inscribed around the walls, primarily in alphabetical order (no indication of rank – they had all made the ultimate sacrifice). It was a special space.
It was a good thing for Stella that she’d seen the movie Moana – it meant that she had some idea about the Pacific Islands! She quickly related many items in the museum to the movie. Especially this boat. Once section of the museum traces the movement of Pacific Islanders across the ocean from island group to island group.
Something that really surprised me was finding out that it was only around 700 years ago that Polynesians discovered and settled New Zealand and developed the Maori culture. Apparently New Zealand was the last major land mass to be settled by humans. Australia has been settled by humans for 50,000 years, and for some reason I just presumed that NZ would be similar (probably because of the close ties between the two countries that I have experienced during my lifetime).
I’m always fascinated by carvings, particularly as used on decorative/household implements like these combs.
And a stuffed kiwi – we haven’t seen a live one yet. Before the arrival of the Maori, New Zealand was populated by birds and insects – there were no mammals at all! The lack of ground based predators meant that New Zealand developed a number of flightless birds – like the now extinct and up to 3 metres tall moa and the small, distinctive (and endangered) kiwi. New Zealand is extremely rich and diverse in plant and bird species.
This is Kave, a goddess figure. She was regarded as the most important goddess by the Polynesian people of Nukuoro, a small atoll. She was very powerful and local priests sought her favour with offerings. She had an accompanying gentle male spirit who was represented by a small lump of rock and was apparently often ‘away’. By the 1870s Christianity was gaining hold and the old gods like Kave fell out of favour.
One room of the museum was dedicated to information about volcanoes and how they sculpted the island of New Zealand. Lots of excellent animations and information.
This war canoe could hold 70 to 90 people. I was astounded at the size! And of course it it is also richly carved and decorated. Wikipedia tells me the following: Waka taua (in Māori,waka means “canoe” and taua means “army” or “war party”) are large canoes manned by up to 80 paddlers and are up to 40 metres (130 ft) in length. Large waka, such as Nga Toki Matawhaorua which are usually elaborately carved and decorated, consist of a main hull formed from a single hollowed-out log, along with a carved upright head and tailboard. The gunwale is raised in some by a continuous plank which gives increased freeboard and prevents distortion of the main hull components when used in a rough seas. Sometimes the hull is further strengthened, as in the case of Te Winika, a 200-year-old design, by a batten or stringer running lengthwise both inside and outside the hull just above the loaded waterline. The resurgence of Māori culture has seen an increase in the numbers of waka taua built, generally on behalf of a tribal group, for use on ceremonial occasions.
Traditionally the war canoe was highly tapu (sacred). No cooked food was allowed in the craft and the waka had to be entered over the gunwales, not the bow or stern which were highly decorated with powerful symbols. Canoes were often painted with black or white with black representing death. The main colour was red which stood for tapu. Sometimes a waka would be placed upright as a marker for a dead chief with the curved bottom of the hull carved. Māori told missionaries during the Musket wars that battles between waka took place at sea with the aim being to ram an enemy’s waka amidships at high speed. The ramming vessel would ride up over the gunwale and either force it under water or cause it to roll over. The enemies were either killed, left to drown or captured to be used in cannibal feasts or as slaves if they were female.
Hotunui is the great meeting house of the Hauraki people. Following the confiscations of land in the 1860s, Ngāti Awa reaffirmed their traditions and unity in the building of two carved houses, Mataatua and Hotunui. The carving of both was led by Wēpiha Apanui and his father, Apanui Te Hāmaiwaho. Mataatua was opened at Whakatāne in 1875, and it was taken to Sydney and London before being put on display at Otago Museum. Mataatua was eventually returned to Ngāti Awa in 1996. Hotunui was built in 1878 as a wedding gift for Wēpiha’s sister, Mereana, who was marrying a Ngāti Maru leader. The house now stands in the Auckland War Memorial Museum. It is gradually being restored. The weavings are carvings are quite spectacular – as it the size.
The three mere (short broad-bladed weapons used to strike or jab an opponent in the body or the head) in the photograph above are carved from greenstone, timber and whalebone respectively.
The museum also held a significant collection of pieces done after European settlement. The chair below was carved by two women, Edith Fenton and Martha Buchanan, around 1900 from New Zealand Kauri. The carving was clearly influenced by Maori carvings.
Raranga is the art of Maori weaving. Flax was woven to produce clothing and household objects. Feathers are sometimes inserted into woven items to produce garments such as cloaks. From this website: There is so much more to Maori weaving than simply creating a beautiful work of art or an article of decorative clothing. Polynesian culture is a spiritual one and there is a belief that an artist is a vehicle for the gods. The artist expresses the feelings and thoughts of the gods and the product of the artist’s work is therefore a sacred one. Art is linked and inter-related to all that is sacred and spiritual. The Maori have many symbols and meanings hidden within their art and these are very definite in woven articles.
There are several techniques that have been passed through the ages but raranga is the one that has survived colonisation. It has strong links with both Asian and Pacific Island weaving. The Maori believe that the past is also the future and the present and is an eternal circle. Raranga (or the art of weaving) has been passed down from the ancestors to the people living today and it is a living symbol that has survived for many generations.
The spirit of raranga evokes feelings of spirituality, of togetherness and of unity. The art of weaving is not only sacred but it literally weaves together all the people of the tribes and their ancestors, ensuring that the tribes remain strong and that memories are kept alive.
The items in the photo below came with the following description: Made by Pakeha, these plates, bowls and cups put Maori people and patterns, which are tapu (sacred), on objects made for eating – something deeply offensive to many Maori.
Similarly, the description accompanying this tea towel reads: The person who donated this tea towel purchased it from a second hand shop to save Harimate from having her face wiped over dishes. Harimate is a tupuna or ancestor and her image is sacred, as is her moko kauae. What does it mean when sacred images are used to decorate and sell products?
Much to think about and consider.
The museum also had a highly talented group of artists who put on a performance of traditional songs and dances – incuding the well known haka, or war dance. As per Wikipedia: The haka (plural haka, in both Māori and English) is a traditional war cry, war dance, or challenge in Māori culture. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment.[a] War haka were originally performed by warriors before a battle, proclaiming their strength and prowess in order to intimidate the opposition, but haka are also performed to welcome distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, occasions or funerals, and kapa haka(performing arts) groups are very common in schools. New Zealand sports teams’ practice of performing a haka before their international matches has made the haka more widely known around the world.
We spent hours and hours in the museum. We definitely recommend it. After that we headed over to the nearby Holy Trinity Cathedral.
The girls really enjoyed the walking (um in their case running) labyrinth. The labyrinth is not a maze. There are no tricks to it and no dead ends. It has a single circuitous path that winds its way into the center. The person walking it uses the same path to return from the center and the entrance then becomes the exit. The path is in full view, which allows a person to be quiet and focus internally. Generally there are three stages to the walk: releasing on the way in, receiving in the center and returning when you follow the return path back out of the labyrinth. Symbolically, and sometimes actually, you are taking back out into the world that which you have received.
The church in the photo above, St Mary’s, is connected to the cathedral, but it used to be a separate church in a different location.
The Mountain Fountain was also moved from a different location. The angles really complement the facade of the main cathedral seen in the photo below. The cathedral is a collection of different architectural styles and was built over an extended period of time.
No idea what was going on with the dilapidated building in the above photo that was on the same grounds directly beside the cathedral! The building in the photo below is the Bishop Selwyn Chapel, only completed in 2016.
Unfortunately the cathedral was closed when were visiting – apparently it is extremely beautiful inside. So we headed off to the Auckland West Coast beaches – via ice-cream, of course.
We headed to Muriwai. It not only has amazing black sand beaches, but is home to a gannet colony.
The gannets nest here from August to March. It was a really impressive sight – one that we could smell before we saw it, actually! All that guano…
From this website: The nests are just centimetres apart. It’s an air traffic controller’s nightmare, but somehow the birds have it under control. Those coming in to land must glide over the squawking raised beaks of their neighbours – so getting it wrong can be painful. These two-and-a-half kilogram birds have a wingspan of two metres, and their mastery of the onshore updrafts is impressive to say the least. Each pair lays one egg and the parents take turns on the nest. The chicks hatch naked, but within a week they’re covered with fluffy down. As they mature, they grow juvenile feathers and begin to exercise their wings in preparation for the one-shot jump off the cliff. Once airborne, the young gannets leave the colony and cross the Tasman Sea to Australia. A few years later, surviving birds return to secure a nest site at the colony.
The black sands come from volcanic rocks. The sands have been carried out to sea by the rivers, then have been washed up on to the beaches. They are actually mined and smelted into steel! The well known black sand beaches sweeping down the west coast of the North Island are the sites of New Zealand’s greatest known reserves of ironsand. Its potential for commercial use was recognised from the early days of European settlement. This black ironsand was formed 2.5 million years ago from rock deposited on the coast by volcanic activity in the Taranaki region. The sand contains mainly ironsand (titanomagnetite) and lime-soda feldspars. Over the centuries, the heavy dark ironsands have been transported by ocean currents along the coast and deposited on beaches, forming dunes of up to 90 metres high.