The Māori people brought the beginnings of their art with them from their ancient homeland in Polynesia when they migrated to New Zealand more than 1,000 years ago and they developed those beginnings to new plateaus over successive generations. Wood carving was the primary art form but it was just one of the Māori’s cultural accomplishments.
Māori art ranged from carving meeting houses and other buildings, war canoes and weapons to creating clothing and personal ornaments such as burial chests, musical instruments, treasure boxes, cloaks and skirts. The stamps seen above are original images created on a computer screen and are not aligned to any specific tribal area but are representative of Māori culture as a whole.
This sixth issue in the ‘Heritage’ series of stamps issued in 1990 commemorated New Zealand’s 150th anniversary and honours the Tangata Whenua – the original people of the land. The stamp bottom left features the haka, made famous around the world by New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All Blacks. The haka is truly a sight to strike fear into the heart of opponents, while inspiring the performers with courage. Contrary to popular belief, the haka can express a number of emotions, ranging from joy to grief. For more detailed information on these stamps follow the link https://stamps.nzpost.co.nz/new-zealand/1990/heritage-people
While on the subject of rugby, the above stamp sheet was issued in 2010 to commemorate 100 years of the Māori All Blacks team (previously called the New Zealand Māori.
As Māori is not spoken widely anywhere else in the world, it has provided New Zealand with a unique language identity. For that reason, and for the important role it has to play as a positive social force in the Māori community, its survival is seen as vital. This was recognised with The Māori Language Act 1987, which declared it to be an official language of New Zealand. Another important step was taken in making 1995 Māori Language Year – Te Tau O Te Reo Māori.
New Zealand Post worked closely with the Māori Language Commission – Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori, designer David Hakaraia and artist Elisabeth Vüllings to create a stamp issue that celebrated the growth and adaptability of the Māori language. The idea was to demonstrate that te reo Māori is a living language, adapting to change by keeping up with the constant stream of new items and technology. David and Elisabeth were then able to create a system of portraying the words in Māori and English, with their corresponding illustrations, to show how the new words were built.
In 2019 there were around 800,000 Māori people in New Zealand, approximately 25% of whom could speak the Māori language and a high proportion with an understanding. As of 2019 there are kōhanga reo (pre-school language nests) and schools using the Māori language, two Māori television channels, 21 radio stations and 29 members of Parliament identify as Māori.
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