Exactly 12 weeks from today I leave for New Zealand. I realize that seems like a long time compared to my Fulbright-mtvU colleagues. When we met in New York City for our orientation back in August, it seemed like they all had plane tickets and visas and were ready to go. New Zealand semesters run differently though, so the academic year won’t start until February. Unfortunately for me, my anticipation has to build that much longer.
I will be traveling to New Zealand to study the importance of music in keeping Maori culture at the forefront of society. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the Maori… you didn’t see The Amazing Race on Sunday?! I was thrilled to see that it took place in New Zealand this weekend, and one of the challenges involved walking among Maori warriors. It is always exciting to see New Zealand get a shout-out beyond Lord of the Rings.
The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. I studied abroad for a semester in New Zealand when I was an undergrad with the intention of taking courses in communication to earn credit for my major. After a brief introduction to Maori culture at a hangi (traditional Maori meal), I was so enamored with the music and tradition that I changed half of my classes so that I could study Maori leadership and language. For a glimpse of what I experienced, search for a video of the haka anywhere on the Internet. I promise, as soon as I arrive I’ll have more for you to check out.
I was very impressed with how visible Maori culture is in New Zealand society, and how music plays a huge role in that prominence. Beyond museums and classrooms, Maori culture is pervasive on television, on the radio, and in festivals held throughout the year. Not only is there a New Zealand Idol singing competition; there’s also Maorioke, complete with three judges to rival Simon, Paula and Randy. When I return to New Zealand, I will be earning a certificate in Maori music from Auckland University of Technology, but more importantly I plan to get heavily involved in the Maori music scene. I will be creating two “rockumentaries” on significant Maori music events to show the effort that is put into earning respect for Maori music and culture. I think you will find the passion behind the Maori music movement inspiring; I know I was inspired, or else I would never have pursued this amazing opportunity.
In the meantime, all I can do is count the weeks and try to prepare as much as possible. I’m just getting into the process of arranging flights, getting my visa, and brushing up on the Maori I learned when I studied abroad in New Zealand- the title, fyi, means Hello! My name is Ainsley! Although nearly all Maori speak perfect English, I think that if I am able to speak a bit of Maori it will help show that I am serious about understanding the rich cultural history and political struggle of the Maori.
I can’t thank Fulbright and mtvU enough for this chance of a lifetime. When I get to New Zealand, I’ll be sharing videos, music, and more insight into Maori culture with you all, but until January 13… bear with me! Only 12 weeks to go…
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