Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Here is a little bit of culture for all you fellow Americans.

What do you think of when you think of New Zealand? I usually think of beautiful, far stretching, foggy and mysterious landscapes- and that's about as far as I think about it. It's one of those places where it seems like a great place to go if only for they mystery of New Zealand. Didn't they film Lord of the Rings there?

Well, the indigenous people of New Zealand are called Maori and they only make up about 14% of the population there. I suppose you could sort of compare that to the Native Americans of America- and the rest of the population just migrated there one way or another.

Anyway, the Maori culture apparently still affects the New Zealand way of life in many ways. One of their traditions is creating orioris. Try looking that word up on the Internet and you won't find much (I tried). Basically, and oriori is a chant or song performed for any purpose but usually the meaning of the chant is tied to change and transformation.

I came across this website today for a major art gallery in New Zealand called the Auckland Art Gallery. They are closing their doors for renovation and they are celebrating it as a hibernation using an oriori they created. They are having various artists (who have exhibited there before) contribute to the exhibition by performing the gallery's oriori and then taking a nap right there on the floor. Sounds crazy a little, maybe even a little too "hippie?"

Explanation from the website:
"An oriori is a Maori chant, performed for a wide range of purposes. Oriori combines Rachel Rakena's interest in states of flux, Jane Veni's interest in sound, and Kurt Adams' exploration of animated drawing. This project contemplates the Auckland Art Gallery's imminent redevelopment, putting it to rest to imagine its next reincarnation."

I think its actually really interesting. Imagine if we performed oriori's for different events in our lives; births, marriage, death, anniversaries, birthdays, graduation, retirement, adolescence, first jobs, second jobs, etc. If we didn't just celebrate the beginning of things, but the ends, breaks, middles, and pauses of things too? It would actually give more meaning and give us sound reason for certain things in our lives.

I guess what I mean is, I know I find myself second guessing my decisions and what I am doing with life- and to tell you the truth, I dont always feel confidant about my situation in life. I think everyone feels like that from time to time, right? Orioris could help us remember that every step we make, no matter how big or small, is helping us imagine the next one.

Maybe some people reading this will think I am being a little too idealistic or optimistic, but maybe it would make change a little more bearable and less scary if we had orioris


Hauiti said...

Kia ora (greetings) from the land of the long white cloud - Aotearoa, NZ!

Just wanted to make a comment about ORIORI - they are essentially songs of instruction for new born children and contain essential genealogies, significant places (ancestral places) and wise instructions for the child.

There are many in our histories: check out the moteatea books by A T Ngata, or have a look on the internet at: JPS (journals of the polynesian society)

hei kona

Beth said...

Thanks Hauiti, for the clarification! I will definitely be checking out that book recommendation, it sounds fascinating! I wish we had more of those kinds of traditions in the US!