Thursday, January 20, 2005

Islanders

The culture of the Maoris, New Zealand’s first inhabitants, comes alive at this year’s Global Village, at a pavilion shared by a host of Pacific nations.

The 600-square metre arena showcases the culture, crafts and tradition of the Maoris, as well as the native populations of the island nations of Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands.

“One cannot fully appreciate the art, culture and life of Pacific islanders, unless he immerses himself in their oral traditions and learns the symbolism of their traditional carvings,” said Regina Sio, a native Maori and chief executive of SMK Management, main organisers.

“Being here today, in the midst of 45 other nations, is an awesome experience. We [are learning] about other cultures and sharing our culture [with] others, too,” she said.

The pavilion’s façade, featuring indigenous art, recreates a Maori meeting house, or “Wharenui”.

In Maori tradition, great importance is attached to the meeting house, explained filmmaker and production Lee Baker, a sixth-generation New Zealander.

Maoris have a long-standing habit of providing legendary hospitality, said Anne Minhinnick, a Maori shop owner in the pavilion, who sells traditional items.

“Maoris had no written tradition before the colonisers arrived. So our stories are etched in stone or shell carvings… and that’s what’s been faithfully handed down from generation to generation,” she said.

For example, fishhooks laminated on 5,000-year-old Rimu wood (Dh400) are symbols of protection for sea voyagers, as well as fertility.

The “Pounamu”, a huge wing-shaped jade carving dangling on Minhinnick’s neck, represents her stature in the Maori community.

“This stone, blessed by the community elders, carries a privilege and honour handed down over many generations,” she said.

Among these exhibitions are many rare artifacts. Particularly interesting are Kauri bowls and platters, made up of wood carbon-dated at 45,000 years old.

Maori handicrafts, including carvings made from the shell of the Blackfoot-Abalone, or “Paua” endemic to New Zealand's coastal waters and renowned for its deep blue-green and turquoise colours, and is often worked into jewellery.

Prior to the European colonisation of New Zealand, native Maori made extensive use of the shell for jewellery and for carvings.

Another craft of the Maori people on display at Global Village are stone carvings made from nephrite, a stone related to jade. Nephrite is a hard stone to work with, especially so with the primitive grinding tools available to the Neolithic Maori.

The traditional Maori craft of weaving gives a glimpse of the time when Maoris arrived in New Zealand around 1,000 years ago, when they discovered Harekeke — an native lily — which provides a strong fibre.

As a culture without metal-working, and in a country without mammals for hides or clothing, the Maori soon found flax vital to their lives.

Over time, the Polynesian skills of weaving mats and baskets became transformed and adapted to tasks such as making ropes, fishing lines and nets, sails for canoes, shelter and clothing.

A troupe of Maori performers is being flown in from New Zealand, so visitors can enjoy traditional songs and dances.

BOX

New Zealand and Pacific nations (including Fiji, Tonga and Solomon Islands) are joining Global Village for the first time.
- Pavilion area covers 600 square metres; the façade is inspired by a Wharenui, a Maori meeting place, which reflects the tradition and history of Maori tribes and sub-tribes.
- Two per cent of sales generated at the pavilion will be turned over to Global Village organisers to be given for the UAE Red Crescents’ tsunami victims, relief drive said organisers.
– Pavilion showcases culture, crafts and tradition of the indigenous Maori and Pacific Islander peoples.
– Products: Cloaks, garments, bags made of flax, contemporary Maori art, CDs of Maori music, carvings, shirts, Kauri bowls and platters (made up of wood carbon dated at 45,000 years old), carvings made from the shell of the Blackfoot-Abalone (a seashell called “Paua”) and stone carvings made from nephrite (a stone related to jade)
– A troupe of Maori performers is being flown in from New Zealand, so visitors can enjoy traditional songs and dances

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