Alf has huge admiration for the blogger who brings him Keeping Stock each day.
And he thanks Keeping Stock for alerting him here to something he missed in his newspaper. It was a report about an unhappy Dane who seems to have struggled to maintain her equilibrium during a good old Maori welcome.
Actually, Alf has a modicum of sympathy for this lady, who has put into words what lots of visitors may well have thought about their Maori welcome, except they have been much too nice to say so.
In a nutshell, she found a powhiri a disagreeable and uncivilised experience.
The politician in question is Marie Krarup, a Danish parliamentary politician and member of the the Danish People’s Party.
Alf can tell you she went to Denmark’s Armed Forces Special School in 1985 and became a reserve officer. She later became a clerk in the Ministry of Defence and from 1998-2001 was posted as assistant defense attaché at the Danish Embassy in Moscow with the rank of Major. She worked in particular in the Baltic countries and with training interpreters.
This implies she has learned just a wee bit about the art of being diplomatic as well as how to mix with people of different cultures.
But being welcomed to this country was a bit much for her, according to Stuff (see here).
A right-wing Danish politician has mocked a Maori welcome to New Zealand, dubbing the powhiri an “uncivilised” ritual, and marae a “grotesque” mark of multicultural worship.
Marie Krarup, in an opinion piece in Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende, was shocked to be welcomed by a dancing, barely-clothed man, instead of a handshake or salute.
“When we came to a naval base, we were not received with a handshake or salute by uniformed men as usual,” she wrote.
“No, we were welcomed with a Maori dance ritual, with a half-naked man in grass skirt, shouting and screaming in Maori.”
Presumably she does not understand that in this cash-strapped country we can’t afford to kit all our sailors in full dress uniforms for welcoming ceremonies.
Nor does she understand that not all New Zealanders tell their kids it’s rude to stick their tongues out at visitors, but – to the contrary – we have special New Zealanders whose custom is to stick out their tongues at visitors, and the visitors should regard this as hugely respectful.
And then there’s nose-rubbing…
Krarup, who was in New Zealand on a defence committee visit, said the man performed “strange rituals and poked his tongue out.”
She said she felt like an “idiot” when giving a hongi, and was relieved to catch a big kiss on the cheek by one man instead of the traditional nose touching.
When it was time to sing, Krarup said the waiata sounded like a Danish children’s song about a happy ladybird. She said it was accompanied by a “kindergarten-teacher-guitar-accompaniment”.
The marae, or “Maori temple”, was a form of cultural self-destruction, according to Krarup.
“It was decorated with God-figures with angry faces and large erect penises,” she said.
“It’s a mystery to me how the poor naval officers could endure both the ceremony and the surroundings.”
Keeping Stock is a bit huffy, saying Ms Krarup is entitled to her views, just as we are entitled to decry them.
But we reckon that she has picked on the wrong target here.
The New Zealand Defence Force has always been multi-racial and multi-cultural. Maori have given distinguished service to New Zealand. The deeds of the 28th Maori Battalion in World War 2 have become legendary. Maori such as Bruce Poananga, his brother Brian and Sir Jerry Mateparae have been inspirational leaders within the NZDF, and of course there’s New Zealand’s most recent VC recipient, Willie Apiata, proudly of a mixture of Maori and Pakeha descent.
Keeping Stock goes on to say her description of events as “uncivilised” and “grotesque” suggest a lack of willingness to even try and understand the nature of the welcome.
Alf’s instinct was to agree entirely, and moreover, to point out that the bloody Danes gained a certain notoriety for being dirty, hairy people who sailed to the British Isles in longboats, then leapt ashore to terrorise the locals by burning, pillaging and raping, which is not a nice way for visitors to behave.
You could say this carry-on was uncivilized and grotesque.
But his research dug up news (here) of a Cambridge University campaign to recast the Vikings as “new men” with an interest in grooming, fashion and poetry.
Academics claim that the old stereotype is damaging, and want teenagers to be more appreciative of the Vikings’ social and cultural impact on Britain.
They say that the Norse explorers, far from being obsessed with fighting and drinking, were a largely-peaceful race who were even criticised for being too hygienic.
This helps us understand how a Viking might regard nose rubbing and what have you.
Anyway, the Cambridge University’s department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic has published a guide revealing how much of the Vikings’ history has been misrepresented.
They did not, in fact, wear horned or winged helmets. And they appear to have been a vain race who were concerned about their appearance.
“It seems that the Vikings may not have been as hairy and dirty as is commonly imagined,” the guide says.
“A medieval chronicler, John of Wallingford, talking about the eleventh century, complained that the Danes were too clean – they combed their hair every day, washed every Saturday, and changed their clothes regularly.”
The guide further reveals that Norsemen were also stylish trend-setters:
“Contemporaries who met individual Vikings were struck by the extreme bagginess of their trousers.
“A tenth-century Persian explorer described trousers (of Vikings in Russia) that were made of one hundred cubits of material, and a number of runestones depict warriors with flared breeches.”
Bumping into the sailors of a modern navy wearing nothing more than grass skirts 1000 or so years later – Alf submits – would be a tad disconcerting.
The academics further say the traditional view of the Vikings as “illiterate warring thugs” exaggerates considerably the reality of their life.
“Although Norse men and women may have sometimes liked fighting and drinking, and were sometimes buried with weapons, they also spent much of their time in peaceful activities such as farming, building, writing and illustrating.”
The guide points out that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a contemporary list of notable events beginning in the ninth century and running through to the twelfth, records some battles, but not for every year.
“Life can’t have been as violent as we sometimes like to imagine,” it adds.
Dr Elizabeth Rowe, a Viking expert and lecturer in Scandinavian mediaeval history at the university, said it was important that children should not picture the Norse warriors as an aggressive race, preoccupied with raping and looting.
“The truth is that their culture was very artistic and they were keen to make an impression because they want to cultivate a certain look. They were very concerned about their appearance.”
Dr Francis Pryor, an archaeologist and regular on the Channel Four series Time Team, said the Norse warriors were part of an advanced society.
“Far from the illiterate warring thugs in horned helmets who brought us to new depths of barbarism after landing by boat to sack monasteries and molest women, they were a settled and remarkably civilised people who integrated into community life and joined the property-owning classes.”
Alf is grateful to his old mate Whale Oil (here) for coming up with a helluva good idea for welcoming sensitive people, such as those of Viking stock, at the same time as he congratulated the Danish MP for being so forthright!
If we MUST have a part of the welcome that is “Maori”, why the hell can’t we just have the women with their singing and poi?
That would be a hell of a lot more welcoming than what we do at the moment.
The one thing I find amazing when we are supposed to be a secular nation is the constant “cleansing of spirits” that goes on for opening and closing of offices and buildings and any other such need that Maori deem necessary to score some additional koha.
As I said we are supposed to be secular…therefore all such nonesense associated with religion whether or not it is primitive animism style religion of the local catholic priest presiding over the blessing of the opening of state sector office must cease forthwith.
Those observations went down well with Alf’s mates in the Eketahuna Club, but Alf is much too diplomatic to say what he thinks of them.