Dane hadn't done homework

By Yvonne Tahana

Marie Krarup publicly criticised the official Maori welcome she was given. Photo / Photo / Supplied
Marie Krarup publicly criticised the official Maori welcome she was given. Photo / Photo / Supplied

The Danish politician who controversially called powhiri "uncivilised" and "grotesque" knew exactly what she was going to see - but may not have read the briefing documents given to her.

Denmark's ambassador to New Zealand, Borge Petersen, was with Marie Krarup - a member of the far-right Danish People's Party - when she was welcomed on to the navy's Te Taua Moana Marae last month.

Ms Krarup was in the country as part of a defence delegation.

After she left she blasted the traditional Maori welcome in an opinion piece in the Berlingske Tidende, a Copenhagen newspaper, in which she wrote that the welcome was less than "civilised".

She decried the wero or challenge; being welcomed by a "half-naked" man "shouting and screaming in Maori"; and being forced to hongi.

She likened a waiata to a Danish song about a ladybird. The "Maori temple" complete with deities, and large penises, also didn't pass muster.

Speaking from Canberra, Mr Petersen told the Herald he'd provided Ms Krarup with a briefing before the ceremony. It is unclear if she'd read it.

"She asked what the tradition was and we gave her a write-up, and also the navy had forwarded [to us] what it was all about so she had her background documents.

"She definitely had the opportunity to read up on that."

Mr Petersen said the opinion did not reflect that of the Danish Government.

"I think it has to stand for Marie Krarup's opinion. But for me I have been welcomed several times into New Zealand in this traditional ceremonial way ...

"It reflects the traditions and culture and at the same time it gives an insight into the history."

Lieutenant Commander Vicki Rendall said Maori culture was an integral part of the Defence Force which reflected multicultural New Zealand.

It was protocol that a cultural adviser escorted guests on to the marae and told them what was happening.

"When I spoke to our host officer and asked, was anyone uncomfortable, he said there was only positive praise. We would always, if someone looked uncomfortable, take them aside later and say 'would you like me to explain what's gone on?' But there was no indication that people were uncomfortable."

The president of Auckland's Danish Society, Marion Stewart, said many of her 400 members were embarrassed by the piece.

She said it sent the message that any culture outside Denmark was second-rate because it was outside the politician's experience.

"I don't know if I'd call it racist but it is ignorant of other countries and their cultures and someone in her position should not be that ignorant."

Read more: Danish MP calls powhiri 'uncivilised and grotesque'

- NZ Herald

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