The New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office (NZCIO), the country's de facto embassy in Taiwan, on Thursday (July 16) celebrated Matariki Māori New Year in Taipei, showcasing the connections between the two countries' indigenous people.
Under the Māori lunar calendar, the reappearance of Matariki, the Māori name for the Pleiades star cluster, in the mid-winter night sky heralds the start of a new year, which fell on July 13 this year, according to a NZCIO Facebook post.
The new year celebration, held at an outdoor venue in Yangmingshan, began with the lifting of food from the ground after being cooked for hours in a traditional earth oven called a "hangi" using pre-heated stones.
"While we haven't been able to invite guests from New Zealand to celebrate Matariki in Taiwan this year, this uniquely New Zealand event demonstrates our hospitality and is an opportunity to share our culture, foods and songs with our friends here in Taiwan," NZCIO Director Moira Turley said at the event.
According to Turley, exchanges between New Zealand and Taiwan have continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
"New Zealand exports to Taiwan have gone remarkably over the past few months. In fact, for May, Taiwan took over from the United Kingdom to become the sixth largest market for New Zealand merchandise exports," Turley said.
"Conversations between indigenous contexts have continued with information on the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable communities shared," she further said.
Meanwhile, Icyang Parod, minister of Taiwan's Council of Indigenous Peoples, said the celebration of Māori traditional festival in Taiwan shows the deep Austronesian cultural connections between the two countries.
Maoris and Taiwan's indigenous tribes are considered Austronesians, a widely dispersed group of people whose languages share the same roots.
They are believed by archaeologists and anthropologists to have migrated from a part of mainland Asia that is now southeastern China to Taiwan thousands of years ago, and then from the island to Southeast Asia, Micronesia, coastal New Guinea, New Zealand, Island Melanesia, Polynesia, and Madagascar.
Besides similarities in language, Austronesian people also share some cultural characteristics and practices.
Icyang mentioned the visit of Taiwanese indigenous youths to New Zealand in February to interact with Māori communities as an example of the "deep and indivisible connections" between indigenous peoples in the two countries.
At the event, guests were treated to dances by youths from Halawan tribal village in eastern Taiwan's Hualien City, and songs by Taipei-based Kiwi singer Laurence Larson and the Taiwanese indigenous band The 2.0.
Taiwan's Presidential Office spokesperson Kolas Yotaka, who is from the Amis indigenous tribe, Minister without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中), American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Brent Christensen, Australia's representative to Taiwan Gary Cowan and former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) were also present at the event.
This is the third annual Matariki celebration hosted by NZCIO in Taiwan. Previous years saw visiting delegations of New Zealand film makers and Māori business experts who shared their knowledge and built relationships with Taiwanese counterparts, according to the NZCIO.
NZCIO Director Moira Turley (Center) and Taiwan's Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Icyang Parod (second right). (CNA photo)