So, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know that Andrew and I are living in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. Brace yourselves folks, you might learn something in this blog post. About 1.3 million people live in Auckland, and there are only 4.4 million people in the entire country. Now that we’ve been here for a couple of weeks, we’ve finally made our way to the Auckland Museum. I was unable to get a hold of Ms. Greta from the museum to complete our membership, as I was unfamiliar with the correct way to dial a landline here. When I asked about it, I was told I didn’t have to do anything just dial the number, turns out it’s so commonplace that, of course, you have to dial 9 before you call a landline from a cell phone, no one thought to mention it. So, Greta is on holiday this week, but we decided to duck into the museum this weekend anyways.
Our first adventure was just trying to get to the museum. On the map it appears you just walk a couple of blocks, find a nice huge green park, walk across it and there you go! But nope, you walk a couple of blocks then there is an impassable highway. So you go out of the way uphill several blocks, cross a bridge, walk a bit further and then you come up to the museum campus. BUT, you walk though these gates and there is this expansive green field and no museum. It’s so hilly, so one can assume the museum is behind several hills or beyond a couple of valleys or wooded areas. We ran into a British woman who was also looking for the museum. We asked a nice looking gentleman who gave us this look like we were complete idiots! “It’s just beyond that hill” he said, though, to be fair it was completely obscuring the huge 4 story museum. Oh, and Julie, I found some snakes for you:
Needless to say, we did actually make it to the museum. I really wanted to check out the two photography exhibits and then we spent a couple of hours wandering around a Maori exhibit. We really enjoyed the Photographer of the Year exhibit and at the end, we got to vote for our three favorite photos, and you’re welcome to check them out and vote as well at http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/1818/peoples-choice-award . The other photography exhibit was the New Zealand Geographic NZ-LIFE exhibit. The biggest downside of seeing these exhibits is that from now on, my pictures will always pale in comparison. I mean, I might get some great shots, but my camera is just not capable of capturing some of those images! The second exhibit had some fantastic pictures and some really unique odd ones too, like this one:
In the Maori exhibit, Andrew and I read a lot about the native Maori people who were the first people to inhabit New Zealand from Polynesia in 1200-1300 CE and then declined with the arrival of the Europeans in the 17th century. We walked into a meeting house or wharenui, which is sacred so we had to take shoes off. The detail that the Maori put into their walls and canoes and everything is just so interesting. I wish I had more capacity to remember what all of the symbols meant. One of my favorite ancient cultures is the Mayan, simply because the experts have concluded that many of the designs on the buildings, in Oaxaca at least, simply were decorative. I can get behind that!
Many Maori artifacts have these faces on them, with their tongues sticking out, I took photos of my favorite one above. Andrew and I both really liked the “war canoe” or waka taua, it was over 100 feet long and was said to accommodate 100 people. In a canoe! I mean, maybe it’s my small mindedness, but really, I don’t think of a canoe as playing an integral part of war. Before we left the museum, we washed our hands in a shared water basin because according to Maori custom, wherever Maori taonga or artifacts/treasures are kept are considered tapu, sacred, and require the need to remove the tapu when leaving the area. The whakanoa or ritual is symbolized by the washing of hands.
So, while we came in the back entrance of the museum, we exited through the front. It really overlooks the city and a valley filled with trees and foliage. The museum, called the Auckland Museum or the Auckland War Memorial Museum is the history of New Zealand dedicated to the remembrance of the New Zealand wars and the memory of the Maori ways and people. I am hopeful that Andrew and I will get to better understand the Maori experience and New Zealand history the longer we are here and the more we travel. The Maori are still very present in New Zealand, even from the limited experience we’ve had here. The Maori, have a very similar situation as the Native Americans in the United States. Many Maori communities are struggling with poverty and alcoholism and struggle with the desire to keep their traditions alive, as is similar in the states. There is a lot of assistance for the Maori to integrate or achieve in the rest of the community, from what I can tell, just like in the states too.