In a time seemingly not so long ago, I got the opportunity to travel 'down under' to go to university. After finishing my schooling, my dad decided to travel over (way way over) to meet up with me for the opportunity to travel that part of the world together. One of our stop-offs took us to the south island of New Zealand. This place was the pinnacle of enchantment, which still yet remains unsurpassed even in my dreams as the measure of wonderment. A (wild) river runs through it to say the least, filled with buzzing jet boats. There are whales to be watched in Kaikoura, working sheep farms to visit and horses to be ridden in the midlands and snow covered mountains to be four-wheeled. Hot springs and seaside restaurants abound! We learned of the history of the antarctic explorations of long ago, visited British pubs and churches, and met the nicest kiwis (both human and bird variety). But it was the tribal encounter with Maori indigenous representatives that solidified our immense adoration of this country.
Well before Disney depicted a caricatured Polynesian demigod to all the world, I knew nothing of New Zealand and adjoining pacific island native culture other than my self taught mad hula skills. This culture was different than anything familiar to me in history books or Elvis movies.
My dad and I were overjoyed to meet and be welcomed into a Marae (meeting house) by the local Maori group near Christchurch to share their history through song and dance and discussions of modern day practices, and how elders work with the young tribespeople instilling integrity, honor, and work ethic into their youth. The Maori greeting is to put their hands on each others shoulders and press foreheads and noses together which was a strange and uncomfortable practice for me, but dad rolled with it. In Māori mythology, women were created by the Gods, who moulded her shape out of the earth. One god embraced the figure and breathed into her nostrils giving her life. After learning this, it made me much more impressed with the practice.
The most striking, mesmerizing and intimidating feature of the culture are the Tā moko, which are permanent markings tattooed onto their faces. These impressive markings practiced by the original inhabitants of New Zealand were most often representing social status, family, or history. The practice wained for a time, but was beginning to make a prideful comeback in the younger generation when we visited years ago. These Moko were the most beautiful and mesmerizing things that I had seen and I had a hard time not staring in admiration.
My very white, Irish/European descended father was taken aback by this culture and was ready for a redo and wanted more than anything to BE Maori. He even hung up his Indiana Jones hat for a time in place of a jade whale hook necklace . For many years, he thumped his feet around, shaking his hands while hitting his chest, war chanting, with his eyes wide and tongue out, practicing for his day when he would need to 'try out' for a position at some heritage museum or something. Like many of us that obsess of over historical travel experiences, we found magic in a people and culture that were welcoming, sentimental, powerful, talented, and fierce. Meeting these people was not only mystical, but they will remain entrenched in our hearts and memories. I feel honored to have experienced this trip with my father as it has created that special something that only traveling together does. My dad is sentimental as it is, but in 'his' Kiwis and Maoris, he will alway find a piece of himself and will always feel a bit Maori Warrior. And while he may not have inked his mug just yet, he is talking earring....small steps.
**In honor of my own dad and our adventure together, I have created this special Small Batch Soap release Maori Moko for Father's Day this year, made from Hawaiian Black Salt, Eucalyptus & Bay.
Thanks for the inspiration dad.
Cheers and Happy Father's Day,
The mother of your favorite