Kiwiana (New Zealand)
Where can I find information about Kiwiana?
Entry last updated: 18/04/19
The popular culture of New Zealand is unique, and incorporates elements from the heritage of all of its residents. This culture is seen in particular items of food, clothing, or even toys and dances that are unique to New Zealand. These items are called Kiwiana because they show what New Zealanders (Kiwis) enjoy and are proud of. Kiwiana forms an important part of the identity of New Zealanders.
Kiwiana icons and objects
There are lots of different examples of Kiwiana and people might have different ideas about what is Kiwiana and what isn’t. Some Kiwiana icons were made or invented in New Zealand, but others originally came from other countries and have become famous in New Zealand.
Some well known examples of Kiwiana include:
The Buzzy Bee: a toy in the shape of a bee.
Jandals: slip on shoes that are called flipflops or thongs in other countries.
Gumboots: water-proof boots that are often used on farms (they might be called 'wellies' or rain boots in other countries).
Pavlova: white, fluffy cake that is make mostly of egg white (some people say this belongs to Australia, but it’s definitely an icon in New Zealand).
Hokeypokey ice cream: vanilla ice cream with little bits of crunchy toffee mixed through.
Marmite: a salty yeast spread that is often used on toast.
Edmonds cookbook: a cookery book that was written in New Zealand and first published in 1908.
The Haka: a traditional Māori chant and dance that the National Rugby team performs before each game they play.
L&P: or lemon and Paeroa, a soft drink originally made in New Zealand with lemon and carbonated water from the township of Paeroa.
Kiwi fruit: a fruit that looks a lot like our Kiwi bird, and is sent from New Zealand all over the world (though it's not from New Zealand originally).
The Silver fern: the shape of native fern leaf that is often used by our sports teams.
Kiwiana and New Zealand identity
There are lots of great websites that have information about why kiwiana is an important part of New Zealand culture and identity.
This is one of our favourite website for questions about Aotearoa New Zealand. It has great information about New Zealand identity and identity and government, and these pages also include information about kiwiana.
Tips: Te Ara links sometimes take you to the Short Story. Remember to try different sections listed at the top of the entry if you want more in-depth information. You can also look at the All images and media link for pictures and photos related to your story.
Because kiwiana is part of New Zealand culture, this government website has some good information. Try searching for the keyword 'kiwiana'.
Tips: We like sites that are from government or other reputable organisations, because we can trust the information. You can sometimes tell these sites by their web address – they might have .gov or .edu – or by looking at their ‘about us’ or ‘contact’ pages.
History of kiwiana
There are lots of great websites that have information about particular Kiwiana icons, their history and how they are still used today. Some icons are also claimed by Australia and there is ongoing debate about which country these icons represent.
This page is from the Christchurch City Libraries. The cool thing about this list is that it has links to books that you can look up at your own school or public library to learn more.
It also links to lots of other websites you can use to find out more about particular Kiwiana icons, like:
- Buzzy Bee: To find out about the buzzy bee, we chose The Buzzy Bee and Friends site, and their page about the history of the Buzzy Bee.
- Jandals: The NZHistory website has an article about the jandal that includes information about where the name originated, and the controversy about who invented it.
- Edmonds cookbook: Find out the story of the company from their official website's history page and their cookbook history page. We can revisit the NZ History website too, for more information about the Edmonds cookbook.
Tips: When looking for information on a famous person or icon we always recommend trying to find their official website, as the information is likely to be more accurate than other sites. This can be the same with company sites, like Edmonds.
Pavlova has been the centre of debate between New Zealand and Australia for many years. To find out why, look for information in the EPIC resources. The EPIC resources are a set of reliable databases put together especially for New Zealand school students.
- New Zealand Geographic: We found and article called From Russia With Love, which summarises the controversy really well.
- Australia New Zealand Reference Centre: We also had lots of results when we searched here.
You can try searching these databases for other kiwiana icons too.
Tips: To get to the EPIC databases you will need a password from your school librarian first. Once you have logged in, you can click on the links above to go directly to the articles or search results suggested.
- If you log on to AnyQuestions.co.nz between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday one of the librarians can help you log in to EPIC.
- Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library (you may not be able to use the above links though).
Another place to look which has great coverage of many topics, including Kiwiana. Try searching Wikipedia for some different kiwiana icons. Always make sure to check out the resources on each of the pages you find.
Tips: You need to be aware that this information is contributed by lots of different people. If you are using this site, it always pays to check the information against that on other sites or in books from the library.
Videos and pictures of kiwiana
These websites have some examples of early Kiwiana icons and how they were formed during New Zealand's history.
This search site focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different New Zealand libraries, museums, universities and government sites all at once, and has lots of primary sources.
Search for 'kiwiana' using a couple of examples:
- Unlike pavlova, there is no debate that hokey pokey icecream was invented in New Zealand! Listen to the icecream and hokey pokey episode of RadioNZ show 'This Way Up'. It's a little old, but the information in it is still current.
- You can also watch Moments In Time - Hokey Pokey on the DigitalNZ website. This includes examples of primary resources - information from the time when hokey pokey was invented.
Tips: The results are grouped by the type of information, like images, videos, newspapers, articles and research papers. Try searching for other examples of kiwiana at this site, and see what you find.
This is another great place to look for information about New Zealand, and is a good place to look when you need different types of information - videos and images. Use our keyword kiwiana to search.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the ‘about us’ link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.
Some books have been written about kiwiana and New Zealand culture - check out your local public or school library to see what they have.
A few suggested titles are:
All about Kiwiana : New Zealand treasures and traditions by Dave Gunson
The great Kiwi activity book by Miguel Carvajal
Culture and heritage : a strands approach by Ruth Naumann, Christine Klingenberg and Felicity Bridle.
SCIS no: 1832728