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Arts and Culture for Expats in New Zealand

Submitted: October 2014

Music and Dance

New Zealand has a rich musical output in both popular and traditional music. Artists such as Crowded House, Ladyhawke and Lorde have broken through national popularity and achieved critical acclaim over the world. Some of the most popular venues are the Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland and the Westpac Stadium and Horncastle Arena in Wellington. However, there are also many celebrated smaller venues such as the Bodega or Powerstation. Artists ranging from New Zealand nationals to huge international acts regularly play all of these venues, so with a little research you should be able to find your favourite musicians.

The traditional music of the Maori is generally defined by long pieces focused on vocals, with several singers in unison, sometimes accompanied by traditional wooden or bone instruments in the form of flutes, trumpets and drums. Nowadays, revival Maori music is often accompanied by guitar or ukulele too. It is almost always complemented by traditional dance and chants. This is kapa haka (literally 'line dance'), which is the main form of Maori performance art. There are many centres around New Zealand that aim to keep these arts alive, such as Culture North in the far north of the country or Te Hana Te Ao Marama in Auckland. Alternatively, many music venues around the country showcase bands that mix traditional Maori music with modern genres, such as the Modern Maori Quartet.

The most famous dance of New Zealand is the haka, an ancestral war dance consisting of rhythmic chanting and shouting accompanied by stomping of the feet, facial contortions and wild arm movements. It is truly a sight to behold, and it has become particularly famous in the last 50 years due to its adoption by many New Zealand sports teams, especially the All Blacks rugby team. The modern purpose of the haka in sport is to pump the team up and intimidate the opposition, as shown here.

 

Museums and Art Galleries

There are many museums across New Zealand, covering history from both pre and post-settlement. The Auckland Museum’s collection includes the world’s largest collection of Maori taongas (treasures), a natural history section containing close to 1.5 million specimens, and one of New Zealand’s most important and grand war memorials. Admission costs from $25 onwards, though Auckland residents can enjoy the collection free of charge.

Alternatively, if you find yourself in Christchurch, visit the Canterbury Museum and experience the world’s largest collection of Antarctic expedition artifacts , or see the extinct moa up close. Christchurch also contains the Botanical Gardens, containing beautiful bedding displays, flora endemic to New Zealand, and fine displays of architecture from the early 1900s to the modern minimalism of the new Visitor Centre. The Christchurch Council has this guide available, showing the best walking routes for a new visitor to the Gardens.

Wellington contains the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, admission is free and the collection includes a national art gallery, some of the greatest Maori exhibitions in the country, and a 14ft colossal squid, the world's only intact specimen of this reclusive creature. For a comprehensive list of all New Zealand museums and places of historic value, including location and contact details, visit NZ Museums.

The largest art gallery in New Zealand is the Auckland Art Gallery. This institution was recently voted the building of the year by the World Architecture Festival, and contains over 15,000 works spanning historic and contemporary New Zealand art and also works by Maori and Pacific artists. It also runs the Walters Prize, widely regarded as the country’s most prestigious art prize. Any trip to Auckland is incomplete without a visit to this gallery.

Alternatively, if your tastes are more modern, explore the Christchurch Gallery. This gallery focuses more on sculpture, textiles, metalwork and performance pieces, although there are still a good many interesting paintings and illustrations. Or, for the particularly bizarre, the World of Wearable Art in Wellington is an annual event showcasing the best in the combination of fashion and art. As long as a piece can be worn in some way, and is beautiful, original and well made, you can see it at the WOW show. A full directory of art galleries in New Zealand is available here.

 

 

 




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