Te reo Māori shapes the way we view ourselves, it carries our worldviews.
This week from Rāhina to Rāmere, The Wireless released gifs that explored the profound meanings within five kupu Māori. The words that were chosen were a mixture of the ubiquitous and the lesser-known, but one common thread was that they involve understandings that go far beyond the surface of the words. The gifs were a collaborative effort involving advocates of te reo Māori, Joan Costello, Migoto Eria, Paora Tibble and Wayne Ngata, as well as the artistic talents of Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho.
Though the gifs enabled us to explore some of the meanings in the kupu, it is a limited format so here are some of the further whakaaro from Joan, Migoto, Huriana and i.
Joan (Ngāti Pākehā) is the Kaiako Reo Māori at Te Papa and can regularly be seen having a kōrero with the many students she has in the museum. When talking about her approach to teaching te reo she is very heartfelt and empathetic, two great qualities for a teacher. Joan describes this as “meeting heart to heart”, it is a method that acknowledges how her students might feel about learning a new language. However they feel, she knows that students learn best when they are open to learning, something that can only come through them feeling comfortable.
Three of the words were chosen by Joan because she found the interpretations “beautiful and heartfelt.” As the editor (and as a typical curator), what I liked about the choice of these words was the way in which AROHA and REREKĒ built upon each other to provide an understanding of PĀKEHĀ that I had never heard before.
The rhetoric around PĀKEHĀ can often be divisive with the word misconstrued as a derogatory term. In light of this, it is preferable to follow the accumulative meanings of these words as provided by Joan below:
Some years back, on a TV documentary, I heard an elder explain the meaning of the word Pākehā.
Aro - To tune into, acknowledge and recognise the shared hā, the mauri in all and everything.
Hā - To hongi is to exchange hā and to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all.
Pā - To come into contact with
Kē - Derived from the word rerekē. Rere | flow, kē | unique or different
Hā - The breath, the essence from ngā rangi tūhāhā | the dimensions of Ranginui
Bringing this together we can interpret it as such: at first contact between Māori and new arrivals it was believed these new people were from the heavens.
These whakaaro were then passed on to illustrator Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho (Ngāi Tuhoe, Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Kahungungu) who visually interpreted them and layered them into GIFs. Here, Huriana writes about how she came up with the drawings:
I chose to illustrate the hongi for two reasons. Firstly the concept of exchanging breath or hā with someone is part of the reason why we hongi, but secondly I think that the exchanging of breath represents a sharing of life, and that to me is an act of aroha.
I have this association with the moana being a place of comfort, a place to go when I need to reflect. So when thinking about flowing to a place of comfort, the immediate image that came to mind was a river flowing to the sea.
The thing that I wanted to get across was that Pākehā was and always has been a term of respect, and that the negative associations that people have with the word Pākehā are unfounded and inaccurate. The reason I chose a handshake was because I think it’s seen as this universal sign of respect, an interaction that both people/groups of people can understand as respectful.
Through the following two kupu, WAIRUA and MĀORI, an accumulative understanding of the interconnectedness of all five kupu was achieved. The decision behind including WAIRUA was not because of the cultural currency it is enjoying (kia ora William Waiirua), but because of an understanding found by Migoto Eria. Migoto is the Manager Iwi Development at Te Papa’s National Services | Te Paerangi and is currently studying toward her Masters in Māori Studies at Te Wānanga o Raukawa. Researching into Māori religious movements led her to the definition explored in the GIF of the two aspects of someone’s personhood walking together.
Migoto also found another understanding in an old version of the education curriculum that directly relates te reo to wairua: “ko te reo te waka kawe i te wairua me te whakaaro Māori”.
Migoto interprets this as:
Related to how we view whakapapa as the reason we identify as Māori, wairua is part of everything we do that we consider to be Māori. This reflects the understanding of taonga pūoro being the sounds of Tāne Mahuta and his tamariki. Te reo is what wairua Māori sounds like.
Huriana describes the interpretation of wairua:
For me and many others, the moana has always been a place of reflection. The moana is where we go in times of emotional turmoil and it always calms us. I chose to illustrate wairua in this way because of that association.
And so we come to the final kupu of the week: MĀORI.
Each day, kupu were presented that provided a view into Māori ways of thinking – where our understanding of connection comes from, the way we think about those different to us, how our tīpuna viewed new arrivals and how we view aspects of ourselves. By choosing to end with MĀORI, this viewpoint continues. It states the way our tīpuna viewed themselves in connection to this land they’d come to live in and how holistic their ways of living within this new environment became. This understanding also shows how this whenua has shaped Māori.
This sense of belonging was the reason behind Huriana’s choice to illustrate a marae for this kupu:
Growing up as someone who knew from a very young age that I was Māori, the marae has always been a huge part of my life and I always saw it as central to all of the interactions I had with my whanau.
We sing, we cry, we laugh, we eat, we sleep, and we live our lives in all our entirety there.
The marae is a central part of te ao Māori, and so when I was trying to illustrate the idea of ‘we are of this place’ that was really the first and only image that came to mind.
The application of wairua in the definitions provided by Migoto highlight the harmonious way in which two things can co-exist. As mentioned also, and as seen in the posts that have been published throughout the week, te reo Māori has provided a vehicle for many people to learn more about te ao Māori.
In the spirit of these kupu, take this as an invitation to look further and deeper and openly about the Māori words around you.