Posts Tagged ‘new zealand’

The Indigenous People of Australia

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
The mysterious Ayers Rock in the heart of the Outback

The mysterious Ayers Rock in the heart of the Outback

The Aborigines of Australia have a long and fascinating history that has been connected to the Australian landscape for thousands of years. Believed to have arrived in the region about 40,000 years ago, the indigenous tribes are actually full of diversity. There are over 500 distinct groups, each with their own culture and belief systems. Indigenous people make up 2% of Australia’s population – about 400,000 souls.

While each Aboriginal group is unique, they share a unified connection to the land and to their spirituality. Their sense of the creation of the world begins with “The Dreamtime” era. This sacred moment in time was when the animal and human spirits rose from the land to create the world we know today. These ”Dreaming” beliefs explain how and why humans behave in certain ways, why the birds in western Australia have different colors than the ones in the southern region, or how the soul resides outside a human body as a spirit-child until it is initiated to human form and birthed by a mother. These creation stories connect the physical world to the human world to the spiritual world in a holistic worldview that cannot be divided.

Every world culture has its own spiritual beliefs that help create social structures, common laws, and even food taboos to keep balance in the natural environment. The Aborigines are no different in that respect, but they have retained their belief systems through traumatic colonial rule and devastating disease that decimated their populations. Despite these formidable obstacles, their strong sense of spirituality and cultural continuity has allowed their Dreaming traditions to be passed from generation to generation.

Meet the indigenous people of Australia and hear their Dreamtime stories and legends on our Exploring Australia and New Zealand experience.

What was your most spiritual moment while traveling the world? Share Below.

Video: Natural Wonders of Australia and New Zealand

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Home to thousands of rare creatures in one of the most treasured (and vulnerable) ecosystems in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is on all of our life-lists. Check out some video of what’s in store for visitors to the region, stretching some 1,600 miles through the Coral Sea.

Don’t miss your chance to get to the Great Barrier Reef. Click here for travel options with Smithsonian.

What great natural wonder have you always wanted to visit? Share below.

Maori Lifeways: Dispatch 8 from Extraordinary Cultures Tour

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Richard Kurin is the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture here at the Smithsonian Institution. He is a cultural anthropologist specializing in the study of knowledge systems, folk arts, museums, and development. He is currently Study Leader on our Extraordinary Cultures – An Epic Journey Around the World tour, and will be blogging periodically while traveling. This post is eighth in a series. To see the other posts, click here.

Dateline: New Zealand

A Maori dancer in the typical warrior pose, with bulging eyes and oustretched tounge. Photo: Richard Kurin

A Maori dancer in the typical warrior pose, with bulging eyes and oustretched tongue. Photo: Richard Kurin

We arrived in Hamilton, New Zealand on the north island and had a stunning drive through the greener than green countryside of farms, cows, and sheep to Rotorua. Rotorua is a center of Maori culture and home of thermal springs that have drawn tourists since the late 1800s. The springs are fed by volcanic activity—New Zealand is on the Pacific “ring of fire” and this region is particularly susceptible to earthquakes and eruptions. Geysers shoot up and steam emerges from fissures in this crater lake town.

Our group is literally herded to supper by two sheep dogs and their handlers. Yelps, barks and whistles keep us moving along—there’s some “bah” “bahing” in recognition of our role. We dine in a building devoted to the 19th century baths—where people the world over came for “the cure.” Instead of being subjected to the somewhat bizarre sulfur water and electric shock therapy of the past, we are nonetheless electrified by the presentation of Te Taru White.

Taru is the former head of Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand and now leads the Maori Authority and the Te Puia Institute. He helped the Smithsonian develop its concept of the National Museum of the American Indian. He joined us on the National Mall in Washington in 2004 for the dramatic opening of that museum and was kind enough to host me in New Zealand when I did a lecture tour of the country. Taru and I move our heads together to touch our noses—the traditional Maori greeting, or hongi—which signifies the sharing of breath, or life.