Māori language advocate Paraone Gloyne started the Mahuru Māori movement in which participants speak only in te reo during September (Mahuru). He is one of the finalists of Te Waiti award (contribution to reo Māori me ona tikanga) at the upcoming Matariki Awards to be held in Auckland on July 21st. Te Ahi Kaa is profiling a few of the finalists in the lead up.
When Paraone Gloyne spoke Māori for thirty days straight it pushed him and others outside of their comfort zones.
At first, a few people felt uncomfortable around him, he attended work meetings and it reached a point where his colleagues had to bring in a translator, and he became aware that he needed to extend his vocabulary.
One poignant moment was dealing with his bank, unable to converse with him over the phone when they called again there was a Māori language speaker on the other end.
“So they got someone to speak te reo Māori to me, now that’s just one of me practicing Mahuru Māori…I think that’s what (it) does, it pushes us into another reality”.
Speaking te reo Māori for that length of time was challenging, Paraone says.
“It’s the emotions you go through, to feel like a foreigner in your own country…that’s how you feel in Aotearoa…you go somewhere and you’re only speaking in te reo, some cases you feel whakama (shy) ... those are some of the internal challenges”.
The idea came about three years ago when hype surfaced on social media around other monthly challenges like Junk-Free June, Dry July and Movember.
Initially, the exercise was to help raise funds for his kapahaka group’s Matatini campaign, but it became a social experiment.
Mahuru Māori – only speaking te reo Māori during the month of September – was a challenge from Paraone to other Māori language speakers to give it go at least once in their lifetime.
The initiative garnered support from the public sector, last year Paraone’s workplace Te Wananga o Aotearoa got on board and this year the Te Taura Whiri I Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) have shifted Māori language week to September in support of the initiative.
There are three tiers of the challenge - people can choose to speak Māori for the entire month, one week or for one day during September.
As a former student of Te Panekiretanga o te reo Māori (The Institute of Excellence in the Māori language) Paraone now works as the Pou Tikanga and Pou Reo Matua at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa campus in Te Awamutu, his job is to facilitate the institution's internal Māori language strategy Reo Ora.
He is still very much a part of Te Panekiretanga as a Kaiwhakaturuki or support person alongside Sir Timoti Karetu and Professor Pou Temara.
Paraone is motivated to make the language relevant and is working on a new Māori language podcast that will launch soon.
“Looking after the language and revitalising te reo Māori is hard work and it takes a lot of your time, I find myself going to bed at night thinking what more can I give to progress te reo Māori?”.
In recent weeks Paraone travelled with other Te Panekiretanga alumni to Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the North of Spain to learn more about language revitalisation.
“We got labelled as activists over there which was quite funny, I think activist is a good word, it’s a person who is pro-active, so I like to see myself as an activator of te reo Māori”
Te Panekiretanga o te reo Māori is in its thirteenth year and many graduates have shaped careers as Māori language broadcasters, TV presenters, consultants and teachers.
In previous years the course has been labelled by some as being too elite and exclusive. But Paraone Gloyne says each hand-picked student needs to demonstrate their commitment to the language, and the scope of what is learned extends to that student's iwi.
“Those tauira over the years, students that have come and graduated, they’ve taken the learnings of Te Panekiretanga and the philosophy, back to their iwi and they’ve started things like wānanga or workshops or academies that operate with the same values unapologetically, that’s what Te Panekiretanga is about.”
Paraone agrees that it is a hard course, many students with Masters Degrees and PhD’s have found it difficult.
“In effect, your mana is on the line when you come to panekiretanga, a typical day is, you walk in and get told to do a karanga, or told to compose a song off the cuff. At one time Māori could do that quite easily, so you can see why the tauira (students) need to be hand-picked”
In one way or another Paraone Gloyne lives and breathes the language. He and his partner speak Māori to each other, both tutor the kapahaka group Mōtai Tangata Rau and Māori is spoken at practices and wānanga.
He insists that the ‘tomorrow’ of te reo Māori lies in our hands and in twenty years he wants every Māori person to possess the ability to speak the language.
“Those of us that are dedicated to the regeneration of te reo Māori, there are few and far (between). It can get lonely at times, but I’ve got heaps of mates.”