It’s often difficult to narrow down what defines you as a person. Think of it like this: you’re a combination of many elements, all linking together and slotting into one another like puzzle pieces. In the middle, there are a few giant pieces, much larger than the others which surround them. Although all pieces are have of great significance, and contribute towards who you are as a person, the giant pieces are very the important ones. One of these giant puzzle pieces is labelled ‘Culture’.
Now, culture is far more complex than a somewhat irrelevant metaphor comparing it to a puzzle. When I say that culture defines us, I don’t only mean that of your own. Culture surrounds us everywhere we go. The music which we listen to, the books which we read, even the TV shows which we watch – these are all heavily influenced by our diverse backgrounds and human heritage. We are lucky to be surrounded by the accumulation of different people with different backgrounds, interacting with and complementing one another. Often, we take this for granted.
Culture influences us as humans. It influences our outlook on life. Our values, perspectives, fears, desires, worries are all influenced by the diversity which surrounds us. Culture provides a platform for us to connect as human beings, for which we would be deprived of without. Whether you’re aware of the strong influence it has or not – this is completely up to you. However, it will always be present to influence the way you see things.
Not everyone feels a close connection with their heritage – and that is absolutely fine. As youth, we’re generally less interested in culture as a whole. However, I encourage you to recognise the culture which surrounds you, and attempt to immerse yourself within it. Culture provides a sense of unity; it and brings us closer together as human beings. It makes our whanau stronger, for the better.
By understanding culture, we begin to value it. By valuing it, we begin to care for it. And by caring for it, comes a thirst to understand, and so on. We live in a country that refuses to let culture to divide it, but rather embraces it. And so it should. Culture is a beautiful thing. Think of a world without the legacy of heritage, and how insanely boring it would be. We would no longer feel the close proximity we currently feel towards one another, as culture greatly impacts that. The world would no longer be the same, and many things about it that we have come to know and love would be virtually non-existent.
Most New Zealanders have a strong sense of national identity with culture, landscape and diversity defining New Zealand, with sport also making a significant contribution. There is one thing that takes my breath away each and every time I watch the All Black’s recent test match and that’s the performance of the haka. It’s my favourite part of the entire match. Watching these men come together to perform a tribal war dance which has been passed through generations that outlive before reaching us, and embracing the culture which founded their country – there’s only one word for it: incredible. Seeing them perform with such passion and respect for Māori culture is not only inspiring, but it’s unlike any culture we’ve seen before. No other country has something even remotely similar to our haka and more so, the Māori culture and that’s what contributes to our undefeatable nature surrounding Rugby.
We take it for granted – the diversity which is present throughout our school. After recently befriending two new international students, I’ve found a new appreciation for culture for which I’ve never felt before. Not only for cultures overseas, but the heritage in New Zealand too. We, as New Zealanders, have plenty of opportunities to access culture and are very fortunate to have a system in place for which we can embrace every living and breathing culture.
We’re one of the only countries that doesn’t let culture divide us, but rather lets it bring us closer together. Culture gives us an identity, and helps build our character. It defines the way we treat ourselves and others. It’s within us, around us, and is an fundamental part of our being. To ignore the beauty of culture would be foolish of us, and why would we want to? Either way it will seep into our everyday lives, so why not take the chance to embrace it?
Writer: Marnie Bird
Editor: Elinor Wang/ Sara Khatau