Learning New Zealand history through blocks and builds!
A few years ago, the Danish government decided to fund a Minecraft project: a 1:1 scale model of the entirety of Denmark, created in endearing chunky lumps. Now, you may never have been to Denmark - though you should, because the food is exceptional, and you sadly can’t recreate that in Minecraft - but thanks to this project, you could explore its cities, roam through its woodlands, and experience what life might be like in the land that brought us Lego!
Saying that, when people actually got hold of it, they blew it up. That’s what happens when you let the internet have nice things. Bah!
Still, unfortunate TNT-related incidents aside, the Denmark project is a fascinating example of what Minecraft can do to preserve history. People have built ancient underground structures, museums, even transformed the New York Public Library’s extensive collection of old maps into digital versions. Minecraft is an accessible and easy-to-use tool that enables even the crustiest, tweediest old historians to keep history alive.
But it’s not just about old history - sometimes it’s about shining a light on current, living history that so often gets forgotten. That’s what Minecraft builder, Lt_Peanut, aimed to change with his piece, Rangatira.
A Rangatira is a Māori chief, the indigenous people of New Zealand. There are details around the Rangatira that represent New Zealand, with the Rangatira “wearing his Korowai, piupiu and wielding his Taiaha in a New Zealand rainforest,” according to the builder.
“I have tried to create a rainforest without the use of trees, as the trees would go beyond the build limit,” says Lt_Peanut in his description on Planet Minecraft. “So instead, I have created the native bird of New Zealand, the Kiwi, and the silver fern, our most symbolic plant, that produces the koru, to represent a New Zealand rainforest instead.”
“Rangatira are of great importance to an iwi (tribe),” Lt_Peanut explains. “They lead their tribe and maintain balance with other iwi.” There is a great amount of detail on the Rangatira himself - “details like the ta moko (tattoo) and the feathers on the korowai were hard to achieve even at that scale,” Lt_Peanut admits - and his traditional Māori weapon, the Taiaha, which was nearly wiped out after the arrival of the Europeans and their muskets.
It’s clear that this piece isn’t just about national pride - it’s also about shining a light on a very real issue. “Recent studies have shown that fewer than one million Maori people are on our earth today,” says Lt_Peanut, and the Māori language (which Lt_Peanut’s description is written in) is only spoken by about a fifth of those.
Even the friendly, curious little kiwi orbs surrounding the rangatira are in danger of going extinct, mostly by predatory animals like stoats and dogs that were introduced to New Zealand by immigrants. So much of New Zealand history, environment and culture is in danger of being wiped out, from weeds that choke the natural plant population to Māori cultural traditions like Tā moko, the art of tattoo-like permanent skin art like you can see on the face and arms of this Rangatira. Hopefully more art, like Lt_Peanut's build, can keep that history alive!
The builder himself has some sweet stories to tell of how he got into Minecraft. “I started playing Minecraft in 2011, and for about a year and a half I played offline and pretended that villagers were real people, because I didn't know how to join servers.” Friend, we’ve all been there. “I asked a friend what the strongest block was, and my first ever build was a bedrock cube with holes for windows.”
But now that he’s branched out a little bit, Lt_Peanut wants the Minecraft world to try building a little bit of their own history in block form. “I think Minecraft can help highlight parts of history,” he explains. “If people create eye-catching projects that both look good and have meaning to them. If a Minecraft build is aesthetically pleasing, most people will look at it, and if it is educational, people can pick up on things that are unfamiliar to them, possibly edging them towards researching and finding out what these different things are.”
“A message I would give to other Minecrafters that want to attempt builds like this, is to let your imagination flow, and let your origins influence your build. Pour a part of yourself into every build.”