Its that time of year when all of the whänau Ataarangi get together for the annual hui whänui. What an amazing thing: hundreds of people converging for the kaupapa of speaking te reo Mäori. Te Ataatarangi is a pan tribal organisation, as far as I can see the number one goal is to preserve the language. Every year the hui is hosted in a different rohe or area which will mean that the tikanga, customs of the residing iwi will underpin the hui.
2012 was my first hui. I was terrified. I had plenty enough anxiety just getting along to class each week and this was on another scale altogether. No speaking English for 3 days!! The hui was in Te Kuiti, the pöwhiri was epic! we sat for hours listening to the whaikörero. We had been taught the basics structure of a pöwhiri so I had some familiarity but really I understood next to nothing. Some of our group were frustrated with the length, I definitely was not comfortable but I was happy to let it wash over me. I had come for this experience and I was going to go with the flow and take in as much as I could. As one of a small minority of Päkehä, I felt a bit conspicuous at first but very soon that disappeared and I became a part of the whänau.
Again, I think of the metaphor of getting in the waka and arriving in another country, only its the same country Aotearoa and its run by Mäori and the dominant language is Mäori. The feeling is very hard to describe in words. For me I guess I think it must be how new immigrants feel arriving at a new county that speaks another language to their own. But te reo Mäori belongs in this country. We are in the Pacific, English is not the language of the pacific – it was brought here: ergo colonisation. The thing is about te reo Mäori is that it is a language that connects with nature, connects with a spirituality and connects people. It is a connecting language. I love it, it make sense to me. Why? I have not fully worked it out yet which is fine. This is a journey for me and I am learning many things about te ao Mäori and about myself.
Back to the hui, it all seems a blur now, but my memory of it is one of overwhelm, but also a deep feeling of privilege to be able to be part of it.
The 2013 hui was held at Whakatu/Nelson. Having just that little more reo and understanding really made a difference. I wasn’t overwhelmed, but still felt quite emotional at times especially when we sang waiata and karakia. I think I’ll do a separate blog on waiata.
tihei mauri ora