In the book Blue Latitudes by Horwitz, the 4th chapter explains both some
history of the travels of Captain James Cook and his encounters with the Maori
of New Zealand and the modern culture of New Zealand society. There is an
interesting interplay between both the ancestors of the Maori and those of
English decent (called the Pakeha). As well, there are mixed feelings toward the
conquest of Cook, that of introducing civilization or destroying an ancient
culture. The confusion regarding Cook and his exploits, even his appearance, as
referenced by an inaccurate sculpture erected at the location of where Cook first
landed on New Zealand soil is exemplified in the chapter.
In particular, the culture of the Maori warriors is explained in the chapter.
This short preview into the lives of the Maori and their strong heritage was very
enlightening and interesting. First of all, the Maori engaged in cannibalism, only
consuming defeated enemies from the warring tribes inhabiting the island. It
was believed that consuming the flesh of other humans stripped the deceased
of their spirit and power. As well, the warriors painted and tattooed their faces
with fierce markings, making the men appear ferocious. Accompanying this
daunting visual display was a pre-battle dance known as the haka. Furthermore,
weapons included a variety of clubs and spears dipped in venoms or combined
with stingray stingers, amongst others.
I found the most surprising part of the chapter to be about the different
views of modern New Zealanders and their feelings toward the conquest of
Cook. In one interview, the writer talks with a known Maori gang. Although
many of the men explain that Cook was not the first to explore the region and
that he simply stormed in and recklessly killed innocents, there are others that
recognize other conquerors in the past were worse and the benefits of western
culture are a pleasant commodity. Many despise the Pakeha, although most New
Zealanders are a mix of both cultures, and there has been a recent surge in
cultural appreciation for Maori decent since the 1970's.
My personal goals of exploration for this trip include expanding my
understanding of another culture, living a little outside my comfort zone, and
learning hands on about the biology of the coastlines in New Zealand. I also do
not only want to visit another culture, but become immersed in it, as this is the
only way to truly learn about another civilization. I hope to broaden my
understanding of Maori and English decent and its influences in the region,
viewing the opposing backgrounds and how they mesh into a beautiful and
unique modern culture today.
This study abroad trip will be similar in a way to me as discovering New
Zealand was for Cook. There is a sense of interest, excitement, and fear.
Although, I am not the first person on the island, my own personal experience
parallels the same range of emotions described. I hope to push myself to learn
as much as possible while abroad and branch out into a new culture I have not
known before now.