New Zealand Culture

New Zealand Culture

New Zealand’s cultural life is vibrant, dynamic and full of energy. On the one hand, this is due to the interesting diversity of peoples who live together here. On the other hand, in the still young cultural history. Specifically New Zealand artists working on New Zealand themes and creating in New Zealand have only existed as a scene since the mid-20th century.

Maori culture

According to directoryaah, New Zealand’s isolated geographic location not only affects the nature and mentality of the people, but also has a significant impact on New Zealand’s culture. The New Zealanders usually go their own way in this area – and they fascinate everyone who gets to know them.

Even the indigenous people, the Maori, continued to develop in their New Zealand isolation from the other Polynesian peoples related to them. Their wood carving, which can be admired in meeting houses and canoes, the jade and bone work in the typical flowing rounded shapes, the tiki, a carved figure that was originally probably used for cult purposes, but also the characteristic facial tattoos, the sagas, legends and customs of the Maori are distinctive and very intense.

Cultural emancipation

With the arrival of the European settlers at the end of the 19th century, the Maori culture was almost ruined – the number of indigenous people was reduced dramatically, the traditional culture could not withstand the influx of immigrants from ever new countries. New Zealand became multicultural in a short period of time . And although various ethnic groups stuck to their established customs in their new homeland – the Scots in Dunedin (South Island), for example, used music and theater – it took a while before a new unity grew out of this cultural coexistence.

One could say that in addition to New Zealand’s political and cultural emancipation from motherland England was a significant step towards its own cultural identity.

In the middle of the 20th century, New Zealanders began to break away from English influences, particularly in literature. The return to Maori customs and their revitalization also began at that time.

Since New Zealand has remained a country of immigration to this day, the culture continues to experience new impulses. Painting, literature and music are noticeably shaped and enriched by these influences.

The architecture in the cities, especially strong in Wellington, make it generally visible. And it’s this mix that makes New Zealand’s culture so interesting.

In addition, culture in New Zealand is very enthusiastically nurtured and promoted. An important institution in this regard is the Queen Elisabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand, founded in 1963 .


The literature was based, apart of course from the oral tradition Maori legends as well as architecture, fine arts and music at first strongly in the British motherland. The earliest written references are travel reports.
The records of the New Zealand explorer, Captain JAMES COOK, who landed in New Zealand with his ship Endeavor in 1769, have become famous. In the period of early settlement, it was factual reports from the immigrants that made up the first evidence of New Zealand.

New Zealand’s own literature only emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. The first world-class New Zealand writer was KATHERINE MANSFIELD (1888-1923), who for herShort stories became famous. However, KATHERINE MANSFIELDS ‘career did not begin in New Zealand but in Germany, later she lived and worked in England and France.

An important epoch for literature began after 1945, when New Zealand began to emancipate itself politically from the British mother country. ALLEN CURNOW and JAMES K. BAXTER are important representatives of this post-colonial literature. Likewise JANET FRAME. New Zealanders of Maori descent also started writing. KERI HULME is probably the most prominent representative.

Visual arts

There is a vibrant and well-maintained arts scene in New Zealand. Numerous galleries and museums exhibit the great variety of New Zealand art. Today it is strongly influenced by the Maori as well as the Pacific culture. The oldest New Zealand gallery is the Auckland City Gallery, which was founded in 1888. The renowned National Art Gallery in Wellington also holds an extensive collection of New Zealand and Australian art.

New Zealand’s most famous painter is FRANCES HODGKINS (1869-1947), who at times joined the British avant-garde movement. Famous early painters are CFGOLDIE (1870-1947) and GOTTFRIED LINDAUER (1839-1947). In the middle of the 20th century, COLIN McCAHON and RITA ANGUS became important, the most famous contemporary artist is RALPH HOTERE. Because of the strong Maori tradition, handicrafts also play a major role. Carving and jewelry work are very common.


New Zealand has three symphony orchestras and is very active in the field of classical music . The world-renowned opera singer Dame KIRI TE KANAWA comes from New Zealand. The music scene in the pop and experimental area is also diverse and varied. While the Europeans are probably only familiar with rapper OMC or the formation CROWDED HOUSE, there is a colorful scene on site. Bands like THE CHILLS, THE CLEAN, THE BATS or HEADLESS CHICKEN have now achieved national cult status.


Film has been New Zealand’s most promising cultural sector since the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Splatter and horror fans have known PETER JACKSON since the late 1980’s, when he achieved cult status with his exclusively privately produced splatter comedy Bad Taste (1987). The film was shown at the Cannes Festival and brought JACKSON international fame. His follow-up films Meet The Feebles (1989) and Braindead (1992) are equally popular with fans. JACKSON delivered a powerful psychological drama with Heavenly Creatures (1994), before his Hollywood baptism of fire with The Frighteners (1996). JACKSONSLord of the Rings epic (2001-2003) secured him a place in film history. The work was awarded eleven Oscars.

JACKSON is an avowed New Zealander who prefers to shoot in his own homeland – an important factor for the New Zealand economy and of course the best advertisement for the varied and attractive landscape there.

The director and screenwriter JANE CAMPION , daughter of an actress and a theater and opera director, also enjoys world fame. Her first short film, Peel, won the Cannes Art Film Award in 1986, and the following films were also awarded. CAMPION became commercially famous in 1992 with The Piano, the film won three Oscars. CAMPIONS also received recognition for the production An Angel at my Table (1984), which is based on the autobiography of the New Zealand writer JANET FRAME.

For LEE TAMAHORI, who began as an assistant director in the 1970’s and then made commercials, the path led directly to Hollywood after moving into the feature film genre. Once Were Warriors, a film that deals with the Maori situation and is based on a novel by the New Zealand writer ALAN DUFF, earned it international recognition in 1994. In America, he shot The Edge in 1997 , Along Came A Spider in 2001 and finally the James Bond film Die Another Day in 2002 .

NIKI CARO also dealt with Maori culture in Whale Rider (2002) and reached a worldwide audience with her film.

New Zealand is also very popular as a filming location for television productions. The Hercules and Xena series are shot here.

New Zealand Culture