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New Zealand

 

Geography & Topography

Capital: Wellington

Population: 4,405,200

Area: 268,021 km²

Language: English, te reo Maori

Religion: Christianity (55.6%), no religion (34.7%), Other (9.7)

Currency: New Zealand Dollar

History

New Zealand is an island country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country is geographically composed of two main landmasses: North and South Islands. Along with the two main islands, New Zealand also contains numerous smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometres east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans.

During its long isolation, New Zealand developed distinct animal and plant biodiversity. Most notable were the large number of unique bird species, many of which became extinct after the arrival of humans and introduced mammals. With a mild maritime climate, the land was mostly covered in forest. The country’s varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions caused by the Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates clashing beneath the earth’s surface.

Polynesians settled in New Zealand around 1250–1300 CE and developed a distinctive Māori culture. In 1840 the British and Māori signed a treaty making New Zealand a colony of the British Empire.Women gained the right to vote in the 1890s and a welfare state was established from the 1930s onwards. The country underwent major economic changes during the 1980s, which transformed it from a protectionist to a liberalised free-trade economy. Markets for New Zealand’s agricultural exports have diversified greatly since the 1970s with once-dominant exports of wool being overtaken by dairy products, meat, and recently wine.

The majority of New Zealand’s population is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and non-Māori Polynesians. Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are the official languages along with English. Much of New Zealand’s culture is derived from Māori and early British settlers. Early European art was dominated by landscapes and to a lesser extent portraits of Māori. A recent resurgence of Māori culture has seen their traditional arts of carving, weaving and tattooing become more mainstream. Many artists now combine Māori and Western techniques to create unique art forms. The country’s culture has also been broadened by globalisation and increased immigration from the Pacific Islands and Asia.

New Zealand is organised into 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities for local government purposes. Nationally, executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister. Queen Elizabeth II is the country’s head of state and is represented by a Governor-General. The Queen’s Realm of New Zealand also includes Tokelau, the Cook Islands, Niue and the Ross Dependency, New Zealand’s territorial claim in Antarctica. NewZealand is a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Commonwealth of Nations, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Pacific Islands Forum, and the United Nations.

Performing Arts

Music

Kōauau

New Zealand music takes most of the same forms as that of other ‘Western’ countries, with hip-hop being particularly popular amongst young Māori and Pacific Islanders.  There are small but thriving live music and dance party scenes. Classical music is less popular but New Zealand has produced several successful composers and an internationally famous opera singer (Kiri Te Kanawa). There is also a strong indie music scene present in New Zealand. Reggae is also considered popular within Maori and Pacific Island communities, with bands such as The Herbs, Katchafire, 1814, House Of Shem, Unity Pacific, to name a few, all reflect and express their roots, perspectives and cultural pride and heritage through their music. The collective consciousness of Reggae in Aotearoa New Zealand all embodies the universal message of Love, Peace, and Unity under Jah.

Putorino

The predominant form of traditional folk music is that of the Māori people. This traditional folk music is often accompanied by wind instruments known as Taonga pūoro. Taonga pūoro, whilst nowadays utilised almost exclusively for musical purposes, used to serve practical functions such as a call to arms, the sounding of a new day and as an accompaniment to various religious rituals. Common instruments include the Putorino which can take the form of a flute or a trumpet depending on the type of sound that is desired.  The Putorino often has ornate carvings on its body as a form of decoration. The Kōauau is a small flute, traditionally between 4 and 8 inches in length, which contains no ducts or notches. The Kōauau is similar to flutes of other regions of the world with regards to the tone quality and range of notes that can be produced.

Dance

Kapa Haka

 The term Kapa Haka (kapa meaning ‘group and haka refers to a Māori dance) is commonly known in Aotearoa as ‘Maori Performing Arts’ or the ‘cultural dance’ of Maori people. Kapa Haka is an avenue for Maori people to express their heritage and cultural identity through song and dance. Kapa Haka dates back to pre-European times where it developed from all traditional forms of Maori pastimes; haka, mau rakau (Maori weaponry), poi (tiny ball attached to a rope or string) and moteatea (traditional Maori songs). The significance of these everyday activities were influential to the development of Kapa Haka. A Kapa Haka performance involves choral singing, dance and movements associated with the hand-to-hand combat practiced by Māori in pre-colonial times. Kapa Haka is presented with a synchronisation of action, timing, posture, footwork and sound. The genre evolved out of a combination of European and Māori musical principles.

 

 

Some interesting facts:

  • The ratio of sheep to humans in New Zealand is 9:1
  • Sir Edmund Hilary was the first man to reach the peak of Mt. Everest. His face now adorns New Zealand’s $5 bill.
  • New Zealand has won more Olympic gold medals, per capita, than any other country.
  • In 1893, New Zealand became the first country to give women the right to vote.

New Zealand Community in Australia:

More information on the New Zealand community: