|New Zealand has a diverse population, with some uniting features, that makes it unique in the world. New Zealand’s relatively isolated South Pacific location and rugged landscape continues to influence many New Zealanders to be quiet and independent, yet also resourceful and self-reliant, with a famous ”Kiwi ingenuity.” This ingenuity is apparent in the design and craft of New Zealand today. †
The first Polynesian inhabitants arrived in New Zealand by double-hulled canoes from the north around the 10th century. Their story of discovery is found in the myths and traditions of the oceanic navigators Maui, Kupe and Toi.
The first recorded European explorer in the area, the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman, encountered and charted part of the west coast in 1642, and named it Staten Land. Probably between the years 1644 and 1648, the land was renamed Zeelandia Nova (New Zealand). In 1769, Lieutenant James Cook, R.N., on the H.M.B. Endeavour, whilst resolving speculations of a great southern continent in the South Pacific, circumnavigated the land, charting the outline of the islands and claiming it for the British Crown. There, Cook recorded the Maori names Aeheinomouwe for North Island and Tovypoenammu (The Water Greenstone) for South Island. In the 19th century it was claimed that Kupe had once named the land Aotearoa (Long Aotea), and this has since persisted as the Maori name for the whole group of islands.
Following the establishment of the colony of New South Wales in Australia in 1788, the harvesting of New Zealand’s resources for export commenced from the 1790s, firstly timber, followed by seal, whale and flax. In 1840, the British Government extended sovereignty to New Zealand with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the Crown and the Maori people.
Wars between the Maori people and New Zealand colonial government and new settlers occurred between 1843 and 1872. With British activities worldwide in the 1840s stretching military resources, the role of local defense was partly filled by soldier-settlers—the Royal New Zealand Fencible Corps, retired soldiers on a pension who had served in the wars in the 1830s and 1840s. The ”Fencibles” were offered a new life in New Zealand; a free passage with their families, and a cottage with an acre of land to become theirs after a seven year term, in return for certain military duties. By 1907 New Zealand had become a self-governing dominion and today has a democratic government.
To understand Kiwiana, it is important to first know what exactly a Kiwi is. A kiwi is a flightless nocturnal native bird and the national bird of New Zealand. It has a long beak with nostrils on the end and rummages about at night feeding on worms, grubs and small insects. Over the years, New Zealanders have become known as Kiwis. There is a “Kiwi” sense of humour, a “Kiwi” do-it-yourself attitude, and Kiwiana means the things that contribute to the sense of being “Kiwi.” Both popular and academic publications document early Kiwiana, including vintage ads, souvenirs, kitsch, popular images, Kiwi design and craft typical of the region