Mataatua - the house that came home

25 November 2014

At Select NZ we are always searching for interesting, unique and authentic New Zealand experiences which we believe our clients will truly appreciate during their visit to our shores.

One extraordinarily special experience which leaves an indelible imprint on our visitors, is a very authentic Maori cultural experience in Whakatane - the amazing rich story of Mataatua Wharenui (meeting house), New Zealand's only repatriated Māori meeting house.  After more than 130 years away it stands once again as the unifying soul of the Ngāti Awa (one of the Maori tribes of the Bay of Plenty) New Zealand.  Built in 1875, it travelled to Sydney, Melbourne, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and South Kensington Museum, back to Dunedin and Otago (South Island) before being returned and restored back in its place of origin, Whakatane, in 2011.

The experience at Mataatua (meaning ‘The Face of God’) ignites the soul within as guests discover this extraordinary story of the house that has travelled through time.  Maori believe Mataatua is the living embodiment of their ancestors which provides the unique setting for guests to have the opportunity for an intimate engagement with the people of Ngati Awa.

This authentic, traditional Maori Marae experience starts with a ‘karakia’ (prayer) followed by an introduction and engagement with hosts in the marae centre to learn their ancestral stories before being called onto the marae with a ‘Karanga’ – a ceremonial call by a wahine (woman) of the local iwi (tribe).  After accepting the challenge from a Maori warrior, guests enter Mataatua for a welcome speech from a Ngati Awa Kamatua (respected leader) and experience a Hongi – a greeting and pressing of noses. The hongi shares the breath of life through which you become one.

With the focus on Mataatua, resplendent with its rich array of magnificent ancestral carvings, visitors discover the extraordinary story of the house and are enthralled as the carvings and legends of Ngati Awa are brought to life in a contemporary way. After this moving ceremony an important part of the experience is the invitation to join iwi hosts for a ‘hangi’ cooked lunch and refreshments.  Hangi food is a traditional Maori cuisine and at Mataatua they currently provide a steamer cooked hangi with the infused flavours of mother earth.

The sense of history and of time immemorial at Mataatua is an overwhelming authentic cultural and historical experience.

Meet the house.  Meet the people.