Maori traditional dance visits from New ZealandIn time for the official opening of the New Zealand Centre for Culture and Education in Yeoksam-dong in southern Seoul today, the New Zealand Embassy in Korea has invited a native dance group to Korea.
The group, The Patea Maori Club, is a household name in New Zealand with its smash hit “Poi E.” The song was once the biggest-selling single in New Zealand, topping the chart for four consecutive weeks in 1983. The group won countless awards, including best group in the New Zealand Entertainment of the Year Awards.
The Maori people are indigenous to New Zealand. They are said to have come to New Zealand 2,000 years ago from a small island known as Hawaki, which cannot be located today.
“The Maori and non-Maori relationship in New Zealand is the best I’ve seen in any English-speaking country,” said John Riley, the second secretary at the New Zealand Embassy in Seoul, who organized the event.
In 1967 in a small town named Patea, the group was first founded as the South Taranaki Culture Club. During this time, a local slaughter- house closed, putting 800 of the 2,000 Maori people living in the town out of jobs. Some left, but a handful that stayed joined the culture group, which has existed in various forms since the early 1960s.
Dalvanius Prime, a young Maori rock musician, wanted to bring this particular cultural significance back to the Maori culture. Collaborating with the traditional Maori singer Ngoingoi Pewhairangi, the two created a powerful song, “Poi E,” and gave it to The Patea Maori Club.
The song allowed Maori music to cross over into a market dominated by Western European music. It was this song that created a new cultural identity among Maoris as well as New Zealanders in general. There was initial skepticism within the Maori community about the mixing of traditional music with rock flair, but it worked.
“Ask any New Zealander around 1984 and they will remember that song,” Mr. Riley said. “But this was no ordinary song, this was something special.”
The performances have changed a lot over the years. “Originally, there was only old traditional music, but nowadays there is contemporary hip-hop, R&B, electronic,” said Dale Stephens, the club’s tour manager. “We are also singing about present- day issues such as politics and entertainment.”
Their performance will include action songs using traditional weapons such as taiaha, long wooden spears, and patu and mere ― short wooden and greenstone clubs held in each hand, Mr. Stephens said. The group will also perform war chants, called haka, with extreme physical movements and loud chants.
“They will also do karakia (prayers) and waiata (songs), which are softer and more melodic,” Mr. Stephens said.
The performance will be conducted by the club leader Phil King with musical director Shay King. It will last between 15 minutes and an hour, depending on what is performed. The show in Korea will feature the top 10 performers from the New Zealand cast.
The Patea Maori Club will perform tonight at 5 p.m. at the New Zealand Centre for Culture and Education in Gangnam and at 4 p.m. tomorrow in front of the main library at Hankook University of Foreign Studies.
At 4 p.m. Tuesday, Mr. Riley will make a presentation on New Zealand culture, education and Maori language at the New Zealand Centre for Culture and Education in Gangnam.
The center is located at 830-40 Pyeongwon Building, 2F Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea. The nearest subway station is Gangnam station, exit No. 1. For more information, call (02) 3454-0059 or visit the Web site at www.nzc.co.kr.
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The political relationship between New Zealand and Korea goes back to 1949, when New Zealand recognized the fledgling Republic of Korea just before the start of the Korean War, according to New Zealand’s ambassador to Korea, David Taylor.
After war broke out in June 1950, New Zealand committed 6,000 soldiers to fight with the nations that came to South Korea’s defense under the UN Command.
Formal diplomatic relations with Korea were established in the 1960s through the New Zealand embassy in Tokyo, and in 1972 the New Zealand government opened an embassy in Seoul.
About1,200 New Zealanders are reported to be living in Korea, with the majority based in the capital. According to Rodney Harris, the deputy head of mission, most teach English. Others include business people, engineers, academics, lawyers and journalists.
The IHT-JoongAng Daily spoke to Mr. Harris about the New Zealand community in Korea. Mr. Harris, a native of Auckland, came here in April 2004.
Q. What kind of activities do you host for New Zealanders in Korea?
A. On the day of launching the New Zealand International Scholarship Program on May 9, we invited Kiwis involved in education, who are mostly English teachers.
Last Saturday, we had an event for the New Zealand Alumni Association at the New Zealand Centre for Culture and Education. About 160 Koreans who graduated from New Zealand tertiary institutions participated.
Besides the Maori dance performance, there will be the first New Zealand Film Festival in October, most likely in Seoul and Busan. Last year, there was the first Korean Film Festival in Auckland.
We also helped launch the Korean film “Antarctic Journal,” as it was shot mostly in New Zealand. There are two official organizations for New Zealanders, ANZCCK (www.anzcck.org) and ANZA (www.anzakorea.org). For those who would like to be connected informally to the community, you can join a club called “Kiwis with Seoul” through the Web site, www.kiwiswithseoul.com.
Tell us about the New Zealand Centre for Culture and Education.
The center is a nonprofit organization founded by two Korean-New Zealanders.
It focuses on English training but also offers information on culture, education, trade and tourism. Inside, there is Koru Cafe, which serves New Zealand food, such as New Zealand-style muscle dishes and Pavlov desserts as well as coffee, New Zealand wines and beers.
Why do New Zealanders leave their country when they are young?
There’s been a long tradition for young New Zealanders to travel and work overseas before permanently settling down.
After graduating college, I traveled around Asia and then ended up in Britain, Sweden and France. In 1993, I traveled around Korea on a bike.
Because New Zealand is geographically isolated, people have a great deal of curiosity for the outside world, but most return home.
I have seen a lot of changes since I was here.
by Daniel J. Lopez, Ines Cho
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