A scoundrel once said, “it’s a great place for bungee jumping, but take a good book.” Well, that was then, this is now, things have changed. New Zealand has become an important cultural destination in its own right. With world-class performance venues, an abundance of arts festivals and thriving creative sectors, we’ve got what you need to have a good time.
One of the things that make New Zealand unique is the ongoing relationship between Maori and Pakeha (i.e. non-Maori). Sure, there’s plenty of both in the museums. But Maori and Pakeha cultures both live in the world, too. They continue to evolve and grow with each other, and alongside each other.
For instance, Maori language continually intertwines with English; Government departments keenly observe both Maori and Pakeha protocols; and of course, the haka has become the single most recognisable thing New Zealand (or Aotearoa) has ever produced.
Here’s the thing: if you don’t get a taste of Maori culture, you’ll miss out on a vital, hospitable and memorable part of what it means to live in New Zealand. And, most likely, a bloody good laugh, too.
New Zealand has thriving visual arts and museum scene, which is both world-class and easily accessible. From the magnificent Auckland Art Gallery to Wellington’s palatial Te Papa, to the architectural cutting-edge of Christchurch Art Gallery and the newly opened Len Lye Centre in Palmerston North, you won’t be short of visual inspiration.
Since the 1980s, New Zealand has seen a proliferation of art festivals, bringing together the best and the newest from around the world. Wellington has the long-standing International Festival of the Arts in even-numbered years, while Auckland hosts the vibrant AK Festival in odd-numbered years. There are annual or bi-annual arts festivals in Taranaki, Hawkes Bay and Christchurch.
And in summer there are more music festivals than you can shake a stick at, including WOMAD, Splore, Laneways and City Limits, Rhythm and Vines, all with high-calibre international touring acts in a wide range of tastes and genres (and, let’s face it, ages).
Every year the New Zealand International Film Festival provides a feast of cinematic delights, featuring new and historical drama, documentary, animation, live cinema, and more. Even better, the festival is nationwide, every year over June and July.
All the main centres have diverse, vibrant programmes in theatre, opera and classical music. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra has a world-class touring programme in both the main centres as well as regional performances.
And in the highly multicultural Auckland, there are big festivals for the main Chinese and Indian holidays. In February, Albert Park sparks into life with the Chinese new year lantern festival. And in October, the Indian community turns on both feasts and performance for the Diwali festival. We love them both!