Te Ao Māori – Opportunities for Learning and Connection

Disclaimer: I am in no way an expert in any aspect of New Zealand’s history or present, or te ao Māori or any part thereof. This is just based on my personal perceptions and experiences.

Māori people and culture have faced many challenges and injustices through the process of colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand. The effects and impacts this has and continues to have on Māori people, te ao Māori (the Māori world), and New Zealand more broadly are another post (or book, or several books!) in itself, and there are many knowledgeable people that have written on the subject.

But perhaps a single-sentence summary is that there are still many societal issues that need to be addressed, many grievances that need to be resolved, and many mindsets that need to be changed if Aotearoa is to decolonise, the Treaty of Waitangi is to be upheld, and appropriate respect and justice is to be given to Māori people and culture.

  

(Photos of Kirikiriroa Marae meeting house, from their website)

One way I believe we can contribute to the decolonisation of Aotearoa, upholding of the Treaty of Waitangi, and generally do right by the tangata whenua, is to educate ourselves about and engage ourselves with te ao Māori. Here are some of the ways I have found to engage:

  • Read beyond mainstream media. Māori Television and Māori radio stations are some resources I find useful. I also like reading and researching different topics as I come across them, making sure I am not just getting information from one source.
  • He Papa Tikanga course – this is a free course offered through the amazing Wānanga o Aotearoa that gives an introduction to Māori tikanga, values and customs. It also addresses some of the events that have been all but wiped from mainstream (coloniser-written) history education. You get supported the whole way through and receive some amazing reading resources and textbooks .
Wharenui at Kirikiriroa Marae. Image from their website.
  • Visit and become involved with your marae. If you do not know your marae, iwi or hapū, there are people to support you finding out this information. All people, from all across Aotearoa and the world are welcome at Kirikiriroa Marae in Kirikiriroa Hamilton.
  • Learn to speak te reo Māori. Until I started learning to learn this beautiful language I did not understand why it was considered the most precious taonga (treasure). Now I get it; because there are concepts that we just can’t communicate in English words. I have completed a number of different te reo courses which use different teaching methods, and so far my favourite is Te Ataarangi. It uses little rods (rākau) as the main teaching tool and I cannot explain how amazing and easy it is to learn this way!
IMG_20151022_101507
Te Ataarangi – teaching with rākau

If you have other resources you would like to see mentioned here, please let me know 🙂


Post Script

I have noticed for many people (of both Māori and European descent) engaging in te ao Māori can sometimes be difficult, uncomfortable and/or emotive, for different reasons.

For example, when I initially expressed my desire to send our non-Māori daughter to kohanga reo (Māori preschool), I was surprised at the controversy this caused within our family and social circles. I ended up writing an article about my experience which ended up being one of the nationally most-read articles of that year, led to follow up articles, several radio interviews, and all sorts of responses from the public – from praise and support, to abuse and even death wishes!

Camilla Carty-Melis
Why my Pākeha child goes to Kōhanga Reo

Still to this day I struggle to understand why it caused such a ruckus. But I suppose this was a turning point for me when I realised I needed to better understand te ao Māori and the strange, tense race relations that currently affect this country.

But I guess what I would like to say is that even if it is challenging, daunting, or uncomfortable… I urge you to pursue, if it is something that you would like to do. I love everything about the learning journey I am on.  I am sometimes really placed outside of my comfort zone. But so far it has always been worth it, because what I learn enriches my life in ways I struggle to put into words. It has most definitely changed my understanding of the world. It has made so clear me the value of co-operation and community strength; challenging the notions of independence, competitiveness and individualism so valued by the Western worldview. And I have grown spirituality as I learn about the sacredness of nature, and my connection to it.

Arohanui, Camilla ❤

20160924_173541.jpg
Statue of Earth Mother at Ngarunui beach in Whaingaroa Raglan

 

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