Across the world there are many cultures, many religions. Some embraced, others hidden, some obscured by time and history. While New Zealand is a relatively young country in terms of how long people have been here, there has still been enough time elapsed since colonization to erode and discourage Maori beliefs and customs. Due to a primarily oral language, there is much about Maori life pre-colonization which has been lost, and knowledge of spiritual customs is one of those things that seemed to be swept away by the early missionaries to New Zealand.
I can remember even back in primary school, only hearing about Maori as being involved with the missionaries and noted the lack of stories and information about their belief system and practices before then. While we were told the Maori creation stories, and heard other legends about primarily Maui, I was curious about the (what felt like) completely missing information on the ways in which Maori interacted with these gods and their beliefs prior to colonization.
As someone with Maori heritage, this has always made me feel uncomfortable, like there were gaps in my knowledge, like those gaps were difficult to close because it seemed like the information I wanted was just not available. So I guess you could say that part of my explorations in Kotahi Bay are a way of internally resolving that lack, of finding ways to reconnect with the Maori gods through creating my own truths and interpretations of those gods. While they don’t play a direct role in the stories for the most part, their presence is felt in the world through their children, and the essence of them is certainly there. What I feel to be their essence, grounded in their connectivity to the world in which we live in, from the sea to the sky, to the harvest fields and the depths of the forest, animals and plants alike.
I’ve actually used the creation story as a basis for the overarching plotline in the series, so if you go and read it, you might get some ideas – I am certainly not going to spell it out for you 😉
I’ll be introducing some of the gods who are connected with my series in future posts in a little more depth. Not all of them make an appearance, but a good portion of them do.