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July 27, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Kōrero Whakataki

Ka rewa Aotea
Kumea, kumea toia
Ki te Tai Hau-ā-uru
Ki Taranaki
Te maunga tapu nō tua whakarere
Pariroa Pā, Taiporohenui Kautū ki te rangi
Te urunga o
ōku Kuia, ōku Tauheke
Ka tau

With the season of Matariki upon us we celebrate Māori histories, Māori culture and of course Māori language. This edition of Salient, Te Ao Mārama celebrates Victoria University’s commitment to the revitalisation of te reo Māori that has seen the annual publication of the Māori edition of the Salient Te Ao Mārama since 1997.

The revitalisation of te reo Māori within Victoria University is not without its obstacles which are particularly significant following the publication of the Māori edition of the student magazine (Salient). Each year the annual Māori edition of Salient, Te Ao Mārama, attracts debate tainted with an undercurrent of aversion from its critics at the use of the Māori language. The resulting tirade of overwhelmingly negative responses from Salient readers year after year since the first edition of Te Ao Mārama twelve years ago is interesting not so much for the institutionalised racism¹ underlying most of the arguments, but rather for the lack of any kind of intelligent understanding of the core issues at hand.

Te Ao Mārama
has evoked responses such as “They’ve hijacked your Salient! How dare they!”…“I’m no racist but the issue of the mag was just plain stupid”…”…it could have been a coded message to all the Māori students saying kill whitey but how would I know I couldn’t understand it.” These comments illustrate that even among the educated New Zealand leaders of tomorrow there exists a threatened intolerance of Māori expressions of identity, culture and language. Furthermore, who is “your” and who are “they”? Are Māori students not considered to be stakeholders in the student magazine?

These attitudes are not new to Māori studying within academia (and indeed the greater Māori community) because Māori are bombarded daily with myths and propaganda that perpetuate a colonial ‘grand narrative’ that has overshadowed Māori history. The Treaty of Waitangi tells of a moment in history that was shared by two Peoples but understood very differently. The varying versions of the Treaty in both English and Māori remind us of two different histories; however it is truth rehearsed and retold through an English, Anglo-centric education system that is accepted as the only truth by the general masses. Consequently, different truths have been ignored or negated from our national narrative. Thus a paradigm shift in how we understand ourselves becomes difficult to enact because one truth, one history, one story is normalised and woven into the fabric of New Zealand society.

One of the problems with the pervasive nature of the New Zealand ‘grand narrative’ is that some Māori themselves have become complacent, accepting and internalising these attitudes as “normal”. It is further unfortunate that this dialogue is often endorsed by mainstream students and staff alike at Victoria University who choose to reject what they don’t understand. The irony is that as students and scholars, is it not our duty within an academic institution to challenge ourselves to seek new understandings and articulations of our world?

Te Ao Mārama presents an opportunity for all staff, students, and other interested parties to venture outside cultural comfort zones, crossing borders in the attempt to build better relationships with each other. Learning about another culture is not an easy task: however the strength of understanding other cultures is that it contributes to the decolonisation of a privileged, standardised story as being “the” story and reconstructs its frame to accommodate other narratives of equal and necessary value.

The intent of this issue is not to exclude non-Māori or non-speakers of the Māori language but rather to present a narrative of Māori experience and raise awareness, understanding and an appreciation of things Māori. This editorial and five articles² within Te Ao Mārama are written in English so that the purpose of this magazine and several important issues surrounding Māori language and Māori culture are clear to non-Māori speakers as well. Close to 100 percent of the content relates to various Māori communities and presents a glimpse of Māori narratives told by Māori, predominantly in the language that can best describe and illustrate their experience. 75 percent of the content is written in Māori, the proficiency of the language varies – from basic Te reo Māori to more complex writings of Te reo Māori for the more experienced reader.

Page 47 provides a list of recommended resources that will be of use to readers with little or no te reo Māori. Te Kawa ā Māui, the School of Māori Studies also provides language courses for beginners to advanced and also courses in English about the social and political history of te reo Māori such as Mao222 & Mao322 taught by Dr Winifred Bauer. This week Ngāi Tauira Māori students association in collaboration with Te Herenga Waka Marae and Te Kawa ā Māui have a number of events and seminars celebrating te reo Māori that are open to all staff, students and other interested peoples.

Within these pages there is something for everyone. On behalf of Ngāi Tauira we hope you enjoy this edition of Te Ao Mārama and Give te reo Māori a go.

Rukuhia i ngā whārangi o tēnei pukapuka, whāngaia te hinengaro i ngā taonga o roto, whakamāua kia tina!

Nā Pania Lee
Tumuaki Tuarua (Mātauranga)
Vice-President Education


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