Māori and Emirati open NZ pavilion at Dubai Expo 2021

By Taroi Black

Emirati and Māori held a ceremonial blessing to open the NZ pavilion at the Dubai Expo, one of the world’s largest events that is being held despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The dawn ceremony was opened by Qasr Al Hosn, an Emirati cultural group that performed the Al Ayyala, a dance symbolic of Emirati identity and culture.

This was followed by tāngaengae, a ritual accompanied by the beat of poi, that describes the connection between people and the natural world. It was performed by iwi from Te Awa Tipua or Whanganui River, the first river in the world to gain legal status as a person.

The river also inspired the theme of the New Zealand pavilion, including a Whanganui iwi proverb at the heart of the building: ‘The river is our essence. When it is healed, we are healed.’ Below it sits a rock that was taken from the river’s source, Mt Tongariro.

Gerrard Albert of Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui says it shows how Māori view themselves as part of the environment.

“It was interesting to see the reaction from our Emirati hosts as they went through. They did resonate with the messages straight away.” 

191 nations are part of Expo 2021 with country pavilions that showcase achievements, creativity and innovation. It will run from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022.