Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Rear greeting that made Kate smile

The Duchess of Cambridge, chats with a Maori warrior at the official welcome for her and her husband Prince William, at Government House, in Wellington, New Zealand (AP)

A Maori warrior's bare-bottomed performance at a New Zealand cultural welcome for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge has become a media sensation.

Wearing just a flax skirt and a black thong, George Mana, a warrant officer in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, left Kate smiling with his central role in the ceremony.

The event marked the start of William and Kate's 19-day tour of New Zealand and Australia with their baby son Prince George.

The Cambridges will travel across the two Commonwealth countries celebrating their people, cultures and institutions.

The royal couple will be not be carrying out any engagements today after their long-haul flight from Heathrow airport, but will make an appearance tomorrow at an event featuring parents and their babies.

On the windswept and rain soaked lawn of Government House in the capital Wellington, Warrant Officer Mana was one of around 35 semi-naked Maoris who performed a ceremonial challenge called the wero to determine whether the royal visitors were friends or foe.

With two other toa, or warriors, Warrant Officer Mana, armed with a spear, advanced on the royal couple uttering war cries.

The trio performed an intricate and intimidating series of martial arts moves. before the airman offered William, 31, a rakau tapu, or dart.

The Duke crouched down to pick it up, all the while keeping eye contact with the warrior and William and Kate were officially acknowledged as friends.

The serviceman's performance proved a hit with Kate, who gave him a smile and was later introduced.

The bottom of Warrant Officer Mana, a Maori cultural adviser to the Chief of Air Force, was covered in symbolic tattoos and his performance has been screened both in the New Zealand and in the UK.

Cultural adviser Lewis Moeau, who was on hand to answer William's questions during the performance, told the New Zealand Herald that the cultural display was a stunning exhibition from one of the top leaders of the Defence Force kapa haka group.

He added that Warrant Officer Mana's tattoos would have been designed to acknowledge his family roots and tribal affiliations.

Speaking about Hiria Hape, the cultural adviser who was with Kate, he said: "As soon as we got to Government House, Hiria said that the Duchess turned to her and said, 'I'm really looking forward to this welcome because I have never seen this.'"

The Duke and Duchess both performed a hongi - the traditional Maori greeting of pressing noses together - with the cultural advisers.

Mr Moeau told the newspaper: "She's very natural. She had no problems with the hongi and she was very lovely. But she was tiny - I could have wrapped one arm around her."

William and Kate will be joined by George at an event at Government House tomorrow, attended by nurses, parents and young children from the Plunket parent's group, an organisation that provides health care and support to new families.

The baby Prince, who is third in line to the throne, will crawl around with a group of similar aged children - six girls and four boys - while the Duke and Duchess chat to their parents who are from a range of backgrounds from Maori and European mothers to a gay dad couple.

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