On the morning of February 2, we arrived in “Aotearoa” - this name was originally used in reference to the North Island of New Zealand but now is the most widely known and accepted Māori name for the entire country. The word Māori refers to the indigenous people of New Zealand. Both the term and the people are a hybrid of various Polynesian cultures.
Auckland, (the original capital of both islands because of the Maori) with its impressive museums, provides the perfect introduction to the history and attitudes of this country …
The Auckland Art Gallery, aside from presenting some important contemporary artists such as Lee Mingwei (http://www.aucklandartgallery.com/whats-on/exhibition/lee-mingwei-and-his-relations-the-art-of-participation)
and Ann Shelton (http://www.aucklandartgallery.com/whats-on/exhibition/ann-shelton-dark-matter)
immediately gave us insight into a rich and complicated cultural history through an exhibition of more than 120 historical portraits of Māori and Pākehā by their most prolific professional colonial painter, Gottfried Lindauer (1839-1926).
Then, by visiting the War Memorial Museum, we learned of the rich Maori heritage of these people who first settled here a thousand years ago. Through informative exhibits and videos the deep political tensions between the European settlers and the original peoples was explained. We learned about the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi treaty and the many protests movements culminating in 1975 which set up a tribunal to redress colonial injustices. Since, there were many settlements including some land returns, compensation and an apology from the crown. A 1995 settlement included a formal apology from Queen Elizabeth II. I found their ongoing reconciliation and negotiation efforts in stark contrast to ours in the United States.
And ironically tomorrow, February 6th is Waitangi Day (named after where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed) – a national holiday commemorating this deeply significant day in New Zealand's history.