‘ONE DANE DOES NOT A COUNTRY MAKE.’
Danes have been voted “the most happy people in the world. They are tolerant too, having recognized same-sex marriage. I have visited Denmark, met Danes overseas and they are the most open and welcoming people. It was, therefore, surprising to read this article about a Danish politician who embarrassed Denmark, New Zealand and, herself. Now, she is a right-wing politician and somewhat of a racist. Remember, “one Dane doth not a country make.”
When I visited New Zealand with my married partner, we were given the “Powhiri” or traditional Maori welcome at a cultural centre. There are many parts to the ceremony: speeches, dancing, singing and hongi. The entire welcome is to tell the visitor that they are invited to the sacred land of New Zealand.
Maria Krarup called the powhiri an uncivilized and grotesque ceremony. Let me explain them.
Powhiri: This can happen anywhere at the workplace, schools, clubs or a building dedication. It signifies two groups coming together, negotiating the terms of their engagement and finishing with guests joining their hosts as one family. It is a spiritual ceremony where gods, heaven and the earth are acknowledged and ancestors acknowledged.
Wero – the Challenge: Three Maori warriors will advance cautiously towards the guests with ceremonial weapons, and perform threatening gestures and grimaces (tongues fully out –eyes big and open) and produce battle cries. Historically, it shows the visitor the tribal strength and also tests the visitor’s courage. A token gift is placed before the visitor as a peace offering.
Karanga: Women sing.
I should add that on my visit to the cultural centre, this part of the ceremony made my cry. I could not fathom why the singing arose such deep feelings of beauty and joy. Maybe I lived this culture in a past life.
Back to the Danish diplomat. She was accompanied by the Danish ambassador to New Zealand, Borge Petersen, when they were welcomed by the navy and Maori people. When Krarup returned to Denmark she blasted the traditional Maroi welcome in an opinion piece in the Berlinske Tidende. She commented that the welcome was less than ‘civilized.’ She decried the wero or challenge as ‘half-naked’ men ‘shouting and screaming in Maori,” and being forced to hongi. The Hongi is the nose rubbing ceremony that is performed by family, friends and special guests.
The president of Auckland city’s Danish Society revealed that many of its 400 members were embarrassed by Krarupl’s newspaper report.
Every country has this type of person who is either a racist, ignorant of cultures, or should be simply kept at home. Krarup missed the joy of visiting and understanding another culture.