Stars of storytelling: Te Reo Wainene o Tua

Hei whakanui i Te Wiki o te Reo Māori/ to celebrate Māori Language Week, Christchurch City Libraries teamed up with Te Reo Wainene o Tua to deliver storytelling events across the city.

Te Reo Wainene o Tua are a group of high-profile role models and Māori language advocates who are motivated by desires to revitalise pūrākau and normalise Te Reo Māori. The group travel both nationally and internationally, to deliver the craft of Māori storytelling.

Rāapa – On the third day of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori I had the privilege of experiencing Te Reo Wainene o Tua in action for the first time at Te Kete Wānanga o Wai Mōkihi – South Library. After getting over the initial fangirl moment of course. Tamati Waaka (those of you who follow Te Matatini will know this Te Whānau a Apanui celebrity) captivated the audience, children and adults alike. Among his stories was Te Whatukura o Tangaroa, I have read this many times and yet I have never gained such an understanding of the story as I have now after watching Te Reo Wainene o Tua in action.

Rāpare – On Thursday we had Pāpā Joe Harawira down at Te Kete Wānanga o Karoro – New Brighton Library. Watching this expert at work with our tamariki was an absolute joy. For the second day in a row we had the pleasure of hosting an event inclusive of students from Kura Kaupapa Māori like those in attendance from Te Kura Whakapūmau i te Reo Tūturu ki Waitaha.

Rāmere – Our final day collaborating with Te Reo Wainene o Tua featured Scotty and Stacey Morrison at Ōrauwhata: Bishopdale Library and Community Centre. These high-profile Māori personalities dazzled our youngsters with their waiata, pūrākau and Moana references. As one of the many tamariki who grew up with Stacey Morrison as a role model, speaking at events that I attended when I was young, to watch her continuing to motivate and inspire our tamariki was very special.

Te Reo Wainene o Tua
Scotty and Stacey Morrison get tamariki moving at Ōrauwhata: Bishopdale Library and Community Centre, Friday 15 September 2017.

The Te Reo Wainene o Tua experience was inspiring to say the least. To see the many random passers-by stop to hear the sounds of Te Reo Māori normalised in our public spaces, sit down with their tamariki and listen was heartening. More than once I was taken back to my childhood listening to my own Pāpā with the smell of fried ham coming from the kitchen and the sound of the waves lapping the shore on Paekakariki beach. They truly represent that Sweet Story of Yester – year. As well as this, they recover that which is lost in translation when Māori stories are translated into English.

Kia ora te Reo Māori!
Let the Māori language live.

Check out some pukapuka by the presenters:

Tell me a story

I recently had the opportunity to attend a storytelling workshop by Te Reo Wainene o Tua. It was a great event and attendees got to think about Māori storytelling, stories in general and who has the right to tell stories.

Stories are essential – without them nothing really has any meaning. But stories and meaning and knowledge are being lost all the time.

We were honoured to have Charles Te Ahukaramū Royal as one of our presenters. He spoke about how the exact meaning of some words to describe Māori types of story has become unclear, and how he is trying to reconstruct this meaning by analysing stories.

Te Reo Wainene o Tua booklet
Te Reo Wainene O Tua: Kei Te Waipounamu, 7-10 Mahura 2016 booklet

In a similar vein I heard Paul Tapsell talk at National Digital Forum in 2013 about using digital channels to connect Māori in urban areas back to communities and places they are associated with.

This shift from urban to rural made me think about how in Britain, where I am from, there was a huge move in population to growing cities in the Industrial Revolution. What was lost in terms of communities and shared heritage that was never recovered? What have I lost?

A book that I read a couple of years ago that has really stayed with me is Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake. It really isn’t an easy read. It tells the story of the aftermath of the Norman Conquest (it’s never the Norman Colonisation, is it?), 950 years ago this month. 1066 is a huge watershed in British history and sometimes what came before gets a little lost. The north of England resisted and were savagely put down in the ‘harrowing of the north‘, and sometimes I wonder if the region has ever truly recovered. There really is a reason the north remembers.

The Wake reminds us of the human impact of the conquest and provides a glimpse of an older world going back into pagan times.

So, stories: they connect us to people, places and culture – both our own and ones we are learning about, they get lost, they get recovered, they can be very ancient, they lead us to different places, they make us think, they make us.

More about storytelling