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Maori Culture in Rotorua

The Arawa tribes were the main pre-European inhabitants of Rotorua. The traditional centre for the Arawa people remains Ohinemutu, situated on the shore of lake Rotorua (near the city centre). Ohinemutu contains a marae and the Tamatekapua meeting house (named after the leader of the canoe in which the Arawa came to Rotorua).

The Rotorua Art & History Museum (Te Whare Taonga O Te Arawa) has some nice exhibits and contains artifacts that display the cultural heritage of these peoples. It is located in the Government Gardens.

The Maori Arts and Craft Centre is situated at Whakarewarewa and is definitely worth a visit, not least for the wood carving activities. Near the Centre is a Maori pa (fortified village) that's also very interesting. At the Arts and Craft Centre you can see skilled carvers at work, and a variety of other artistic works.

There is the Buried Village, a reconstructed Maori dwelling place that was caught in the 1886 Tarawera eruption. The site was excavated and you can see various exhibits from this. There are also scenic walks there which take you past waterfalls and streams.

In general, a wide range of events and activities relating to Maori culture are on display in Rotorua. Concerts with traditional dancing and singing are often hosted. Some marae and a number of hotels organise hangis where one can eat food cooked in the traditional way - steamed in a pit with heated stones. One can view and purchase various arts and craft work. All this can sometimes seem overly commercialised, but at the same time it does provide an important forum for Maori culture and artistic works, not to mention business activity.

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