This week Re: released the latest chapter of The Taumata Kōrero, a podcast that digs deep into how Māori view themselves and their world in modern-day Aotearoa. In the spirit of te wiki o te reo Māori, the first episode talks about what the future holds for kura kaupapa and the importance of keeping te reo alive.
Re: had a chat with Raniera Harrison (Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Porou) who is the brains behind the project and also an award-winning kairīpoata (journalist) and te reo Māori lecturer at the University of Auckland. He tells us the meaning behind Taumata Kōrero and his vision for making Aotearoa bilingual by the time he has mokopuna (grandkids).
Congratulations on the podcast! Can you tell us a little bit about Taumata Kōrero?
The aim was for Taumata Kōrero to be a place where people are allowed to share the true representation of not only who they are but who their people are. It is about giving an exclusive look into the Māori world view. The podcast was also about trying to bring new life to our language and helping perpetuate traditional knowledge for generations to come.
What does Taumata Kōrero mean, and why did you name your podcast this?
The name Taumata Kōrero is taken from a concept on the marae. The taumata itself is the place where the speakers representing the iwi will sit on the marae, some other tribes call it a paepae. So I've taken that concept and used it to allow people to come in and tell their stories and share what is going on in their lives.
The level of discussion that happens on the taumata on a marae is of a high calibre, so I wanted to use that imagery to accentuate the mana of everybody who came and sat on our taumata.
What was the best part about working on this project?
In the time I spent working with our guests I learnt so much. But the one thing that they all had in common was their ability to relay their lived experience through Māori whakaaro (Māori thought process) and how they all rejuvenated te reo Māori. Every guest brought a breath of fresh air and new life to our reo.
Did you grow up speaking te reo or did you learn it later in life?
I was fortunate enough to grow up with my grandparents in Whangārei, and my grandfather was the one who drilled it into me and my cousins. It wasn’t taught formally, we first learned through lived experience. I have fond memories of being at our marae playing rugby in the carpark and learning the Māori word for tackle (rutu) because your cousin just tackled you on the concrete and you nearly cried.
Fast forward a few decades and you are now teaching te reo at Te Whare Wānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau (University of Auckland). What’s it like teaching te reo in an academic setting?
It is so grounding to be able to give back and revisit the basics of te reo. For some of my students, it has taken 30 or 40 years for them to realise the missing part of their cultural disconnect was their language. It’s humbling to be able to see people figure this out and learn and grow as people.
How can we keep te reo alive in Aotearoa?
They say that it takes three generations for Māori to be entrenched within the family unit, but it only takes one for it to be lost. So for me, it was always about making sure my children were part of that three and ensuring te reo Māori was their first language.
Social media is also a huge place where te reo Māori lives, and that was a big part of this podcast. So many of our tamariki (children) are on social media, I've got 10-year-old cousins with Instagram accounts. So as creatives, academics, and parents we need to use this technology to honour the Māori concept of ‘tuku iho’, to give or pass on knowledge in a downwards manner. If we have to pass te reo downwards onto an iPhone, so be it.
How do you view the status of te reo Māori in Aotearoa?
Te wiki o te reo Māori has been awesome to see New Zealand, especially corporate New Zealand support, promoting and advancing te reo. What I am worried about though, is that we are using te reo Māori as a gimmick. My challenge for those of us making an effort to use te reo, is to keep using it. We can’t just have this language be this healthy and thriving for only one week of the year.
My hope is that at least 50 percent of New Zealand will be speaking te reo Māori by the time I have grandkids. It’s a big dream but if we follow the same trend of revitalisation, I think we can do it.
What else about the future gets you excited?
There is this new generation of young, educated and cool Māori who are coming through right now and they've got all these academic qualifications from Western institutions, but they can sing, they can speak te reo and recite history on the marae.
My heart is warm to know that our Māori stories, history and all of these bodies of knowledge will be protected by this new generation coming through. And it’s also exciting seeing more of mainstream New Zealand allowing Māori voices to take up space.
We are still piecing the puzzle back together. It was only 50 or 60 years ago when Māori culture was desolated and back then we weren’t afforded any of these opportunities to embrace our reo and knowledge. We're still coming to grips with how we should carry all of these responsibilities and use these newfound ways of disseminating knowledge. But it is it time to acknowledge and honour that there is a new wave, a resurgence of Māori culture.
Long Live The Wānanga.