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What’s a hangi? Perhaps some kind of brutal punishment ritual? Or a Maori tribal folk dance…? A feast, you say? Count me in!

Shamelessly tourist, Tamaki’s performance and feast surprised my grumpy traveller self by being nevertheless thoroughly enjoyable. The itinerary: A canoe trip to the village; Followed by a flamboyant welcome ceremony and village tour; Leading towards the cultural showcase extravaganza. And after all that it’s time for dinner!

In creating the evening imaginations of performers and crew. Amid detailed reconstruction Maori village structures, the aggressive energy engrosses all who watch, while enthusiastic hosts guide everyone through the rituals. This, clearly is heritage they are proud to be showing off.

Visitors are, however, encouraged to suspend disbelief throughout the evening. The ‘canoe’ transportation, for example, was actually a stuffy bus which we ghost-paddled. The humour needed to see past these intrusions is supplied copiously, without which the whole show could seem disappointingly fake. So, intent on enjoying myself, at the time I went with everything happily, especially gobbling up the massive quantity of food (certainly ‘quantity’ over ‘quality’.)

In retrospect I remain ignorantly fascinated by Maori and colonist New Zealanders. Surely, the prevalent existence of ‘cultural showcases’ plays an invaluable role in the preservation of tradition. Elsewhere in the world, oppressed or outdated cultures have found no such outlet.

Singing along to a final verse of “We wish you a Maori Christmas”, enjoyable as it is, I can’t help but hope that these performers stick to their own traditional reportoir for the rest of the year.

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