He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
– Māori proverb
One of many defining moments of the Leadership NZ programme experience in 2015 was visiting Kaikohe's 'Kohewhata' marae. It was up in Kaikohe, where I discover a new found respect for my personal identity & name, the land Aotearoa, the people of the land Tangata Whenua, and language of the land, Te Reo. So much so, we've all collectively decided to learn Te Reo Māori together as a crew, co-working colleagues & friends.
The 'CORE Reo Māori' beginner classes are enthusiastically lead & strategically designed by the wonderful wahine toa, Te Mihinga and her amazing co-kaiako Rosalie from CORE Education. We've learnt a multitude of Māori proverbs, pronunciation & pātai over the past 7 weeks of these classes, and it's been highly interactive, informative and there's some pretty choice kai too!
We still have one more week to go, but thought I would capture the diversity of lessons learnt & key reflections from some of my classmates thus far:
From Jess Holdaway, Curative:
“Learning Te Reo has been so satisfying. The language is beautiful, rich and expressive.
I love being able to pronounce places properly and learn the meaning behind their names!”
From Kelly-Ann McKercher, innovate change:
"As Pakeha New Zealanders, many of us have spent a lifetime pronouncing Māori words far from how they were intended to be spoken. Sometimes when we start trying to pronounce Māori words correctly - we're not understood or supported by our peers or family. It's super helpful to be in an environment where we can try, practice and be surrounded by people who also value trying to improve our pronunciation."
From Jo Mitchell, Curative:
"Before we started it was shameful how little Te Reo Maori I knew and even worse my ability to say place names correctly! Learning Te Reo has meant more to me than just understanding a few extra Maori words though, it's been about history and culture of Maori and of New Zealand a place I've spend most my life in. Learning our pepehas made me think about the importance of origins, heritage and whanau, forcing me to consider my own identity through this lens and question the importance of place to who I am."
From Emma Blomkamp, innovate change:
"Our classes were te mutunga kē mai o te pai (absolutely awesome)! Our wonderful kaiako (teachers) coped with a diverse group, all with different levels of te reo and commitment, always at the end of the work day. They used fun games and songs to energise us, stayed focused on the basics that we needed to grasp without bombarding us with too much vocab or grammar, but were also open to our needs and random questions - like learning how to say Tīhau (Twitter) on day one and answering all kinds of questions about tikanga. Learning a language requires a lot more than 8 classes, but this was a great refresher to get me back on track on my learning journey. Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu."
From Kaan Hiini, Curative:
"The classes have really highlighted how disconnected from my culture I have been, and I've really enjoyed learning both the language basics and the tikanga, and appreciate the guidance in putting together my pepeha and mihimihi. It's really motivated me to continue learning, and I'm enrolled in the AUT programme, starting in June."
From Eddy Royal, Curative:
'Kia niwha te ngākau' - have determination
"These were the first words that our awesome kaiako Te Mihinga shared with us in our first Te Reo lesson, and they stayed with me throughout all of our classes. As we practiced our vowel sounds, sung waiata, learnt how to ask questions and how to introduce ourselves, we were all taken on a journey of learning that went deeper than just the words we were reciting. Sharing this experience with the team was really special and allowed us to practice and challenge each other as we went. I've already seen the impact that this learning has had on the way that we work and communicate. Nga mihi nui Te Mihinga and Rosalie - especially for your patience with all of our patai, and for all of he kupu aki aki (words of encouragement)."
I echo everyone's sentiments above, and personally for me it's been a continuation of my journey; first exposed to Te Reo in Kelston Primary School, then was reminded of it all in Kohewhata Marae, and of course, our LNZ15's group vision for New Zealand to be truly bilingual by 2050 has been a huge encouragement. I've also really enjoyed re-learning, reciting & now remembering my pepeha, and already had the fortunate opportunity to be able to share my pepeha a couple of times at speaking engagements.
Kia ora te whānau
Tēnā rā kotou katoa
Ko Waitākere te maunga
Ko Waitematā te moana
Ko Hinemana te whenua
Nō Marēhia ahau
Kei Tāmaki-Makarau ahau e noho ana
Ko Albert Tang tōku papa
Ko Florence Woo tōku mama
Ko Adam Taylor tōku tane
Ko Kuini tōku ngeru
Ko Pounamu (a.k.a Jade Tang-Taylor) tōku ingoa
Ko Curative tōku mahi
Nō rei ra
Tēnā kotou, Tēnā kotou, Tēnā tatou katoa
I truly believe that for us to move forward as a nation together we need to have a deep understanding and appreciation of where we've come from as a nation. Whilst also acknowledging and respecting both Māori and Pakeha worldviews. As well as integrating other diverse perspectives, beliefs, visions and collectively forming a unifying Kaupapa for the future of Aotearoa. Ashamedly, it's taken me over 30 years for me to realise this to the point I was actually going to do something about it, however, I also believe it's just the beginning...
Last but not least, just want to take this opportunity to say a tēnā rawa atu koe Te Mihinga! For all your hard work, energy and love you've put into the classes. For being open enough, and entertaining the idea from the beginning of the year (turns out, I can be quite convincing with a coffee & cupcake ;)) Te mutunga kē mai ote pai!
It's got a few of us really inspired & committed to learning Te Reo Māori ongoing whether it be at:
I'll end with the same Karakia we always end with in our wikis.
Nga mihi nui,
Jade (Poh Gaik) Tang-Taylor