Archive for the ‘Mauri Ora’ Category

A wonderful new mural on the bunker outside the Art Gallery depicts Māori goddesses/atua wāhine. It’s the work of Kāi Tahu artist Xoë Hall, for whom these Goddesses are super badass ancestors.

Hine-tītama is the flashing red dawn, who becomes Hine-nui-te-pō, the atua of night and receiver of souls in the afterlife.


Mahuika, atua of fire, appears with her flaming manicure, shining a light on the past, while being a torch for the future.


The trickster Māui is shown in lizard form, referencing the time he tried to crawl through Hine-nui-te-pō to reverse the cycle of death and she awoke, slamming her thighs shut on that idea, and therefore bringing mortality to all mankind.

Maui and Hine-nui-te-pō

The Goddesses are given form
with colours that are bright and warm

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I rarely choose a book by a male author, but the reviews for this novel intrigued me, and I was thoroughly engrossed by it. The setting in Aotearoa, and the Māori aspects were fascinating. It’s a fantasy, with mythic atmosphere, and a generous sprinkling of Te Reo. The female spirituality resonated deeply with me, and the consideration of language and tikanga reflected our current society. I was pleased to recognise some Māori words, others I could guess from context, and it was good to learn some new ones (which I hope to remember). I kept my Reed Māori dictionary handy but some words were not in my 1999 edition. One of my Xmas gifts was Māori Made Fun, a book of puzzles in Te Reo, and I’m looking forward to trying those.

The author is Pākehā, and the acknowledgements at the end make it clear he had Māori support to write this story. It’s a very different novel and one I unreservedly recommend.

The women characters are strong
he learns it’s best to go along

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A self-affirming lesson I learned years ago is that should (and must) can always be transformed into could.  Lately I’ve found the shoulds are creeping back into my life, especially in connection with my Te Reo course.  For several weeks we’ve been told to look after ourselves and our whanau, and that there are absolutely no expectations of students at present.  Yet a tiny voice inside tells me I should/could be working on the online course and I should/could be memorising vocabulary.  If it’s could, I have a choice, and right now I choose not to study, and wonder if I ever will again.

The class has had a couple of Zoom sessions, which have been gentle and encouraging, but I find I’m dreading the time (28 April) when classes start again.  They will be online for at least six weeks, and the online work doesn’t suit me.  I find the system keeps throwing me back to where I’ve been before, and I miss getting feedback about what I’m doing.  Recently we’ve been advised to use smartphones to identify new words, and also for taking part in an online quiz.  My smartphone doesn’t allow me to download these apps, which makes it harder for me to keep up.  I would dearly love to have a textbook that I could work my way through in a classroom situation.

Today we had a message from our tutor asking us to advise her if we are considering withdrawing, and I think the time has come for me to do that.  I’m aware I may then find I want more mental stimulation, but I will still have my blog and my poetry.  Plus I could spend time working on my genealogy, and I would enjoy doing a jigsaw.  I knew when I took this course on that it was supposed to be full time and that so much commitment might be more than I could cope with.  The added difficulty of having to stay home in my bubble makes it even more unlikely that I would complete the course, and if I withdraw now I will have freedom for other things.

So, Haere Ra to Te Reo
I may come back one day for more.

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After two weeks of studying Te Reo I’m feeling less confident about completing the course.  The weekly three hour lessons have been okay, but studying at home is somewhat fraught.  There’s an online course component, but I’ve found the structure of it difficult to follow, and have twice phoned the Help Desk for assistance.  Studying online is very different to what I’ve done before.  I’m a visual learner and I long for written resources to follow.  The best parts for me are where there are exercises with gaps to fill in, or recordings to be made and uploaded.  I presume that eventually my kaiako/teacher will give some feedback on these.  There are tutorials available on Monday lunchtimes, but these are not convenient for me just at present.  I’m aware I may have few opportunities to practise, especially now I’m no longer in paid work.

I try to do several hours study each day, and to take a break whenever I’m feeling stuck.  The whole project is a little overwhelming at present.  I’ve added the Maori keyboard to my computer, but the macrons look more like grave accents (à, è, ì ò, ù).  The podcast I listened to this afternoon ended with the advice: “Keep going – never give up.  Above the clouds the sun is shining.”  I’m very aware that when my daughter leaves there will be only eleven days until my Jury service, and I think I may have been foolish to register for that.  At present I’m avoiding my regular exercise class, and my poetry group, and definitely not writing any poems, all of which gives me a little bit of extra time.  My intention is to enjoy days with my daughter while she’s here, and to continue the regular meetings with friends which are essential for my wellbeing.  I will keep studying and hope things will improve in a few weeks.  We’ve been told that if we withdraw from the course within four weeks there will be no effect on our academic record, but frankly my academic record is not something I care about at present.

I’m determined to persevere
for a good portion of the year

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At an introductory session for my Te Reo course I was asked to fill in a form and give three reasons why I wanted to do the course.  I hadn’t thought a great deal about this beforehand (I’m a reflective learner) and put down things like wanting to understand what was being said at meetings and on radio and TV.  Lately I’ve been more carefully considering my reasons, particularly as my commitments for the next couple of months have increased, and I’m less confident of being able to give sufficient time to study.

My desire to learn Te Reo is partly because of my commitment to Te Tiriti and partly because of my desire for a more inclusive society where my values are shared.  On several past occasions I’ve been part of making a treaty-based decision to transfer a small amount of power from Pakeha to Maori, which has always given me a good feeling, as well as building my relationship with Maori.  For some years I regularly attended monthly meetings of Te Runaka ki Otautahi o Kai Tahu, and loved the process, energy and ‘wellcomeness’/manaakitanga of these meetings – so different to the way much Pakeha business is conducted.  I’m aware that Te Tiriti is the basis for government in this country.

I’ve done some study, mainly experiential, of Maori Tikanga, and I’m drawn to the fact that their world view is communal rather than individual.  I also love that their spirituality is based on nature and a balance between feminine and masculine.  This is in line with my own spirituality and has a familiar security for me.  I sometimes find the Maori links with Christianity uncomfortable, but this applies in the Pakeha world as well!

I see learning Te Reo as a personal way of helping to integrate society in Aotearoa.  All my voluntary work is based around supporting communities, especially my local geographic community, and I welcome the chance to help bring about a society that reflects my values.  My recent small action for abortion law reform was another such opportunity.

It’s been good to reflect on my reasons for choosing to study Te Reo, and this reflection makes me more motivated to succeed.

Te Reo opens up a door
and I’m encouraged to learn more


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The 180th anniversary of Te Tiriti o Waitangi is being marked today in various ways across the country.  In Christchurch there’s a festival in Victoria Square where many stalls had a Maori and/or sustainability focus.

Waitangi Day stalls

I bought Shabby Chic All Natural Cleaning Paste, made from baking soda, pure castile soap, and essential oils.  It looks a little like Chemico.  There was also a variety of food stalls, some of which had a Maori flavour

Food stalls

Raw fish was offered, and Hearty Hangi’s made with love.

Modern hangi are gas-powered

Hundreds of people were enjoying the music and entertainment in the fine weather.

Waitangi Day entertainment

I noticed two plaques laid in the ground of the Square, that I hadn’t seen before.  One read Market stalls selling meat, fish, produce and groceries occupied this area in the 1880s, and another: Public Works Department offices and yards occupied this site in the 1860s.

6 February is a day when we can stop and reflect on the meaning of Te Tiriti and what action we might take.  There have been several messages about the importance of Pakeha learning Maori ways to balance the fact that Maori have been obliged to live in a Pakeha world for over 180 years.  My learning Te Reo this year will be a move in that direction.

We need to learn the Maori way
and hear the things they have to say

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Sleeping Together

The Te Reo course I hope to take next year includes two noho or weekend marae stays.  I’ve been on marae before, and my only apprehension about these visits is the thought of sleeping in a room with many people.  By the time we go in May the other students should no longer be strangers, bu it’s some time since I’ve shared a bedroom with anyone except Stephen, and I do like to have my own bathroom close by.

In my 20s and 30s I was very happy to sleep marae-style with friends.  I can remember a time when several Values Council members slept on our lounge floor, and I joined them, leaving Stephen alone in the bedroom.  Council times together were infrequent and precious, and we enjoyed chatting into the wee small hours.

Tramping holidays and Women’s Studies Conferences also meant sharing sleeping accommodation, but it’s been a while.  When Stephen was involved with Alf’s Imperial Army I once slept in the same room with eight Wizards.

My sleeping bag has not been used for about ten years, and will need a thorough airing.  It will be an adventure and a learning experience, but I imagine I’ll be glad to get home to my own bed.

Two nights spent sleeping marae-style
will be an interesting trial

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Te Reo #1

I’ve bravely enrolled in a Te Reo course with Te Wananga o Aotearoa.  I say bravely because I’m not sure how/whether I will manage to do the work involved.  The course involves one three hour class per week, at a venue ten minutes walk from my home, and it’s free, all of which are great incentives.  However students are also expected to do another 33 hours of study each week, attend two weekend Noho Marae, and four one day Wananga.

Back in 2006 I did a Mauri Ora home-based course (72 credits) which also required considerable work, but I managed to satisfactorily complete in a shorter time than expected.  Over the years I’ve learned some Tikanga/culture but have never got very far with Te Reo/language, and I would love to be able to understand and speak more.  On this blog the most visited post each year is always my mihimihi (first posted in 2006, and updated in 2008 and 2011), something that still surprises me.

The weekly classes are in the evening 6-9pm, a time when my energy tends to be low, but I love that the venue is in Manchester Street within easy walking distance.  Even in winter 9pm is a time when I feel safe walking – little chance I’ll be taken for a street worker in Manchester Street.  I expect to be one of the oldest in the class, and appreciate that Maori culture values older people.

I went to an information session today – had dithered as to whether I would go and confirm my enrolment, but then I had a dream which indicated I would enjoy being part of the class, so I went.   The session was promoted as taking two hours, but actually took only 45 minutes.  This bodes well for anticipated time frames.

The commitment to Te Reo will probably mean I don’t have time or energy for any writing courses in 2020, but at least I should have some material to blog and write poems about.  I gather some students drop out during the year and wonder if I will be one of those?

The course requirements could be savage
but crucial when we learn the language

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When my Mother died in 1995 her body was cremated as she wished.  I collected her ashes and when I was asked where they would be placed, was happy to tell the crematorium, and pleased to know this was being recorded for the benefit of future genealogists.

I hadn’t thought to ask Mother where she’d like her ashes to go, and briefly considered putting them in the Avon/Otakaro River which she loved.  However I knew this would be offensive to Maori, and decided that I would scatter them in my garden, knowing she’d be happy with this.  I didn’t want to place them under a particular tree or shrub, thinking that could be problematic if we later moved somewhere else.  My idea was simply that she would return to the earth in a general way.  Mother used to live in a Theosophical community and I remembered her saying that after a senior member died and his ashes were scattered on a grassy slope it felt strange to walk past little piles of ash knowing they were his.  Consequently I gently forked Mother’s ashes into the soil, so they were well mixed into various parts of my garden.

Some years later I was disturbed to learn that pregnant Maori women are advised not to attend any funeral or go near a site where there is any part of a dead body (because they are tapu when pregnant).  I wasn’t expecting any pregnant Maori visitors but was aware that if any came I’d need to explain that my home might not be suitable to receive them.  A few years ago an older man, well-versed in Maori spiritual lore, came to see me to bless a taonga I’d been given, and I told him of my concern.  He offered to cleanse my property and we followed a ritual for this.  It’s good to have had this done, to know that Mother’s ashes can rest in peace, and any pregnant visitors are quite safe.

I like to honour local lore,
and tikanga I can’t ignore.

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Today I borrowed a library book and ordered a hot chocolate, all in te reo.  I was impressed to find that the library system had adopted te reo (Maori language) for the week.  The first sight of the screen was slightly daunting, but I managed to muddle my way through.

Library computer screen

I’d got to the stage of paying the fee for my ‘held’ book before I thought to take a picture.  This screen indicates that I needed to pay a fee ( nama debt, whaina forfeit) of $3 and that my total balance now was $7.40.  I’m not sure what the sentence underneath (utunga expenses incurred, iti small, rawa best) ending in 10 cents indicates – a minimum payment?

I was pleased that I managed to pay and get the docket that tells when my book is due, which was printed in te reo.  Afterwards I realised a librarian had been keeping an eye on my progress, and she told me there was an icon at the bottom left of the screen with an option to change to English.  (How often have I been told ‘Read the screen!’ ?).

In the library cafe I was confronted by a mat informing me that if I ordered my coffee in te Reo I would get a small prize.

Coffee order in te reo

I had no difficulty asking for he tiakerete wera maku, and my prize turned out to be a mini chocolate fish.

It’s been great to see how common te reo has been this week.  Even the ‘Press’ has changed its masthead to Te Matatika, meaning to be honest, fair, impartial, and unbiased.  It remains to be seen how much of this other official language of New Zealand carries on once Maori Language Week is over.

‘This special Aotearoa tongue
deserves to have its praises sung.’

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