Waiheke sculptor Paora Toi Te Rangiuaia talking only Māori for a month

Paora Toi Te Rangiuaia has taken up the challenge to speak te reo during September.
ROSE DAVIS/STUFF

Paora Toi Te Rangiuaia has taken up the challenge to speak te reo during September.

Trying to talk only in Māori during September is proving challenging and rewarding for Waiheke sculptor Paora Toi Te Rangiuaia.

He has taken up the Mahuru Māori, or Māori September, challenge as part of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo, or Māori Language Week, which started on September 11.

The commitment has involved getting cards and two t-shirts printed saying he will only "kōrero i te reo rangatira", but "don't be afraid, let's treat it like a game".

At times, such as during Environment Court mediation over plans for a marina at Kennedy Point, he has spoken in te reo and then translated.

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"Speaking at home and at work has been both challenging and encouraging, filled with anxiety broken by laughter," he wrote.

He started learning te reo Māori when he was about 26 years old and has taken a couple of short courses.

"I'm still learning. I'm mainly self taught by being thrown in at the deep end." 

Recently, he has been adding to his knowledge by taking a te reo course taught by Ani Morris at Piritahi Marae.

He describes Māori language as offering keys to unlock a landscape of nga whakāro, thoughts and emotions, that "tie you to the rich tapestry of intermingled genealogies and associated histories".

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One of the rewards for sticking with te reo has been inspiring other island residents to speak their own first language at home.

Waiheke High School Māori performing arts teacher Te Ao Marama Hau has challenged other staff to use the Māori words they know in the classroom and to learn five to 10 new words each week during Māori September.

She was brought up in Kaikohe with Māori as a first language.

"If our language dies, our people pretty much die. It's my passion, it's my drive and it's my duty," she said.

Words such as aroha, kia ora, and whānau have become part of everyday language in New Zealand and Hau hopes to see the use of Māori grow.

"We appreciate those that give it a go, so don't be scared. The only way you can improve is by becoming more comfortable using it."

Waiheke Māori fashion designer Jeanine Clarkin said she can't always express herself fully in English.

"This is one of the main reasons I love te reo, as it is an extension of my being and definitely my wellbeing," Clarkin said.

 - Stuff

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