In the Footsteps of a Maori Voyager

A new attraction in New Zealand’s North Island has put the cradle of its indigenous people back on the map.

A performance brings Kupe’s epic journey to life. (Photo courtesy of Manea – Footprints of Kupe)

In the annals of human exploration, the epic ocean voyages undertaken by early Polynesian seafarers still lack the recognition they deserve. But modern-day travelers now have the chance to delve into Maori culture where New Zealand’s story as Aotearoa, the “Land of the Long White Cloud,” first began. Opened in December, Manea – Footprints of Kupe overlooks Hokianga Harbour, where Kupe — the fabled voyager credited with discovering Aotearoa centuries before the Europeans — is believed to have come ashore. The US$7 million cultural and education center is an exciting addition to the remote Northland region, whose sights include the giant kauri trees of the Waipoua Forest.

Encouragingly, visitors to Manea take on the role of active participants rather than passive observers. After a powhiri welcome ceremony, they’ll learn about Maori customs through a guided 75-minute journey that incorporates traditional storytelling and songs, artwork, and, in a purpose-built theater, a 4D digital showcase narrating the adventures of Kupe and his descendants. The center is operated by the Te Hua o Te Kawariki Trust, with all profits invested back into the community. In time, it’s hoped that Manea will help improve the economic fortunes of Hokianga while shining a light on the area’s rich Maori heritage.

The Manea building. (Photo courtesy of Manea – Footprints of Kupe)

A view of the headlands of Hokianga Harbour. (Photo: 7Michael/iStock)

This article originally appeared in the March/May 2021 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“A Legend Relived”).

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