Why Do Maori Press Noses? – What Wanderlust Taught Me about My Own Culture

Wanderlust it’s a fabulous word. The way it rolls off the tongue. My modest vocabulary left me intrigued with images teasing the imagination. Not one to ever hold back I dived head first into the wonderment and desire of new experiences.

To better understand my voracious approach to life one requires some background. As a child I remember treading water in the deep end of the ‘big’ pool. Something about being at the mercy of my own plight excites me. I would jump into the deep end of the pool and push my feet off the bottom, where I would be greeted at the edge by the relieved face of my young mother. Who no doubt was also holding her breath as her five year-old would laugh and splatter for air.

And yes I just compared attending a festival to the possibility of drowning. I thought “this stuffs a bit too touchy feely for me”. Never the less attending Wanderlust might be the best thing I ever do in 2016, because in a serendipitous way it delivered me to learning more about Te Ao Maori.

By definition Wanderlust means a strong innate desire to rove or travel. So it seems fitting that my blogging journey started there.

At the time all I knew, was that I needed to get out of the city, plant my feet on the ground before pushing off into 2016.  I don’t recall the first time I was introduced to Wanderlust but it looked good and felt right. A bunch of tree huggers eating organic activated twigs (most likely only found in some developing country no one can pronounce), whilst wearing inappropriate amounts of lycra. My inner yogie craved to join their them. Even if only for a week.

Something they don’t share when you register for the event however, is the kinda outter-body experience one has. For me it was much about confronting the unknown, discovering new limits, and self acceptance. Woven amongst the meditations, back bends and windpipes I rediscovered vulnerability, and was rewarded with the courage to ask myself some pertinent questions.

During one of the speakeasy’s Kara-Leah Grant of Yogalunchbox.co.nz raved about her encounters with Maori culture during the week. But I couldn’t quite get my head around her enthusiasm. I couldn’t see what the big deal was. Part of me wondered if it was the novelty she was connecting with.

KL continued to poke and prod away at my insecurities during the three-day workshop. But one exercise that truly struck a cord was the significance she had drawn from the hongi (formal greeting of sharing breath, touching noses and foreheads). Ashamedly in the routine of life, I had unconsciously drifted away from that fearless girl treading water. Curiosity had escaped me and I had stopped learning about my own culture.

On a superficial level I would say I understood the meaning of many Maori tikanga (traditions). Nonetheless, these Pakeha, American, German, Russian and everyone in between were connecting to tikanga like I never had.  This was my aha moment.

Maori legend tells of Taane (God of forest) breathing life into the first earthly woman Hineahuone. This underpins the significance of hongi.  Yet I had gotten so distracted by the act that I had foregone the purpose.

As the week unrevealed and I began to give into the idea of learning more about my culture and documenting the journey online.  I became more comfortable with the inevitability of judgement and rejection. And can honestly say, that my body and mind were being stretched in asanas like never before.

My Wanderlust adventure was interrupted as I left for a tangihanga (funeral) on the Sunday for Auckland. The following weekend I also attended a Wananga (discussion or course) on the Kingitanga (Maori sovereignty) at Parawera Marae (meeting grounds). I was surprised by how often my fresh perspective and appreciation of hongi served me. I had learnt how to greet others with my nose and open heart.

A timely affirmation as I begin to record the inns and outs of learning te reo (Maori language) with Te Wananga O Aotearoa (New Zealand), tikanga, my whakapapa (geneology), history and beyond.

Kara-Leah Grant has a fantastic review on her Wanderlust Taupo experience. I’ve linked it below.


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