Archive for the 'Māori culture' Category

A history of Aotearoa in seven musical instruments

Māori girl playing a Jew's harp, early 1900s (pic: Alexander Turnbull Library, Tesla Studios Collection (PAColl-3046))

Māori girl playing a Jew's harp, early 1900s (pic: Alexander Turnbull Library, Tesla Studios Collection (PAColl-3046))

Following the success of Neil MacGregor’s radio series and book, A history of the world in 100 objects, it seems as though everyone is writing history through objects – and who am I to buck a popular trend? So, here are some key themes in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand, traced through musical instruments.

Pūtōrino – the natural environment. The pūtōrino is unique to New Zealand, and has both a flute-like ‘female’ voice and a trumpet-like ‘male’ voice, depending on how it is played. The story goes that Hine Raukatauri, daughter of Tāne, loved her pūtōrino so much that she decided to live inside it by turning herself into a case moth. The case moth’s long, tapering cocoon resembles, and may have inspired, the shape of the pūtōrino. Not only were taonga puoro, Māori musical instruments, made from natural materials but they were also inspired by the shapes and sounds of the natural world which Māori observed so closely.

Human voice – community. The power of the human voice unites us as human beings – almost everyone can sing or chant, after their own fashion. From the karanga welcoming visitors to the marae to traditional waiata telling of love, loss or ancestral deeds; more recent Māori songs of remembrance, celebration and political protest; folk songs recording the pleasures and pains of everyday life; wartime songs relieving the tension and boredom of military life; national anthems sung together on important occasions; the vocal virtuosity of beatboxing, an integral part of hip-hop culture; or the joy and power of singing together in choirs – singing reminds us that we belong to communities. Singing can be a means of self-expression, too, but even then we can take shared pleasure and pride in the talent of individual singers, from Kiri Te Kanawa to Lorde.

Jew’s harp – culture contact. The Jew’s harp is a small instrument played by placing one end in the mouth and plucking a reed attached to the frame, producing a twanging sound. Māori had a similar instrument, the rōria. Because they are so portable, Jew’s harps were brought to New Zealand from the earliest days of Pākehā settlement, and were used as part of the payment for the New Zealand Company’s ‘purchases’ of vast areas of Māori land (in Whanganui, for example). Like so many other new technologies and ideas, they were taken up enthusiastically by Māori, replacing traditional instruments.

Bugle – war. Māori had a number of instruments – such as the pūtātara and pūkāea (shell trumpet and wooden trumpet) – whose sound carried over long distances and which were therefore used for signalling in time of war. The bugle was used in a similar way by Pākehā. During the New Zealand wars, the bugle featured in such stories as that of Bugler Allen, killed at Boulcott’s Farm in the Hutt Valley, and Te Kooti’s lieutenant Peka Makarini, who used misleading bugle calls to confuse colonial troops. Bugles were also used in the First World War and later conflicts, and now play an important role in commemoration of war during the Last Post ceremony.

Piano – domesticity. For Pākehā, the importation (and, later, the domestic production) of pianos helped to create a sense of home. A piano in the home was both an important part of the décor and a focus for entertainment, with family and friends gathering around the piano to sing and dance. For women, playing the piano could sometimes be a respite (however brief) from household chores. There was a class dimension to all of this, of course – not everyone could afford a piano – and in time the more affordable, but arguably less participatory, radio took the place of the piano in living rooms.

Drum – diversity. Drums are often associated with uniformity – keeping people in time and in step. Yet they can also represent New Zealand’s diversity of cultures and beliefs. Traditionally, Māori had a range of rhythmic instruments, but unlike their Polynesian cousins they did not use drums – their closest equivalent was the pahū, a wooden gong. During the colonial period, drums were part of the equipment of war, but were also used by Māori who were dedicated to peace. Drums are an important part of New Zealand’s diverse marching and parading traditions, whether those parades are political, religious, military or carnivalesque in nature. More recently, migration and cultural exchange have brought a much wider range of drums and drumming traditions to New Zealand, including those of the Pacific, Africa and Asia.

Guitar – fun. As in much of the rest of the world, guitars are central to popular music of all sorts in New Zealand, including folk, country and blues, pop and contemporary Māori music. Guitars also give New Zealand popular music some of its distinctive inflections, from the classic ‘jinka jink’ Māori strum to the jangling or droning guitars of the Dunedin sound and the Pacific flavour of New Zealand reggae (heavier on the guitar and lighter on the bass than the Jamaican original). Above all, the guitar has become New Zealand’s good-time, party instrument. Nothing symbolises this better than the enduring popularity in New Zealand of a relatively obscure Engelbert Humperdinck B-side, ‘Ten guitars’. The song has become a cultural reference point for everyone from bored troops in Vietnam to sculptors. So, all together now: ‘I have a band of men and all they do is play for me…’

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

Mahitaone Kōhanga Reo i te tau 1984 – Masterton Kōhanga Reo, 1984 (pic: Wairarapa Archive)

Mahitaone Kōhanga Reo i te tau 1984 – Masterton Kōhanga Reo, 1984 (pic: Wairarapa Archive)

Ko Te Wiki o te Reo Māori tēnei. Ko whāngaihia te reo Māori ki ngā mātua te kaupapa, arā, ka manaakitia e tātau ngā mātua ki te ako, ki te kōrero tā tātau reo, kia whāngaihia te reo e rātau ki ā tātau tamariki.

I te tau nei he āhua orite te mahi mo tātau.  Ia wiki, ia wiki ka whakawhiwhia e Te Taura Whiri tētahi kupu me tētahi rerenga kōrero. Ko e te tau te kupu o tēnei wiki, ko haramai, e te tau te rerenga kōrero.

This week is Māori Language Week. The theme of the week is fostering the Māori language in parents – if we support parents to learn and speak te reo, they can foster and teach the language to our children.

This year Te Taura Whiri have used the same idea as last year – one word a week, extended to include a short sentence or saying. This week’s word is ‘e te tau’ (darling), and the sentence is ‘Haramai, e te tau’ (come here, my darling).

Anei ētahi atu kia whāngaihia tō reo.

To help foster your language, here are a few more examples.

Tō ātaahua hoki!             You’re so beautiful.

Kei te mamae tō puku?    Is your tummy sore?

Tō kakara hoki!               You smell lovely.

Kei hea tō koti?               Where is your coat?

Māku koe e āwhina.         I will help you.

Ka nui tēnā.                    That’s enough.

Ko te reo kia rere, ko te reo kia tika, ko te reo kia Māori

Karawhiua!

Remembering Tairongo Amoamo

Tairongo Amoamo shows Hutt Valley High School students Māori biographies (pic: Quintessential Images)

Tairongo Amoamo shows Hutt Valley High School students published Māori biographies (pic: Quintessential Images)

Last Saturday I had an unexpected reunion with some of my old colleagues from the Dictionary of New Zealand biography project, but the occasion was a sad one – the farewell for Tairongo Amoamo, who passed away on 8 July. From 1990 to 2000, Tairongo was Māori editor for the Dictionary, with responsibility for translating the entries on Māori subjects into te reo. He was a native speaker of the language, and his reo was, as Ranginui Walker said in his eulogy, ‘impeccable’. Tairongo was passionate about his work on the Māori volumes, known as Ngā tāngata taumata rau – the people of many peaks.  But he was much more than a translator – he was a generous teacher and friend to those of us who worked with him. Through him we were introduced to the important principles of tikanga and manners – imparted in a kindly, patient but very firm way!  Listening to him talk in te reo to Māori visitors in the office revealed to us that it was a living language of everyday life, as well as being a vehicle for poetry and history.  And he loved to recount the stories of the people whose lives we were recording – people like Tuakana Āporotanga, Te Pairi Tūterangi,  and of course Mokomoko. When he told these stories with such relish, they became incredibly vivid, and their ongoing deep significance for him and many others was evident. It was a lesson that in this country, history is not just about the past.

Tairongo knew that at the Dictionary, we were making history in more than one way. His lasting achievement is his contribution to Ngā tāngata taumata rau, which when complete was the largest Māori-language work to be published since the translation of the Bible in the 19th century. It was the model for subsequent translation of Māori entries in Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Haere rā Tairongo – your work will live on. Haere ki te kāinga i whakaritea e tō tātou Kaihanga mō tātou katoa.

Te ringa toihau nui

Basil at the Ngā Kupu Ora Māori Book Awards, 2012

Basil at the Ngā Kupu Ora Māori Book Awards, 2012

E hoa, e te ringa toihau nui o Te Ara, te kaihautū o te wāhanga Māori, tēnei te mihi nui, tēnei te mihi aroha hoki ki a koe

It is with great sadness that we record the departure to an exciting new venture of Basil Keane. In recent years Basil’s official title was ‘director of Māori digital projects at Manatū Taonga’, which reflected his wide-ranging creativity in digital publishing, but he first arrived at the ministry as editor Māori for Te Ara. Basil came to us from the Eastern Institute of Technology after Rangi McGarvey had established the mana of the editor Māori position, so there were very big shoes to fill. We were not at all certain that we would be able to do so. The interview panel was chaired by Ranginui Walker, and I remember that the moment Basil left the interview room, Ranginui turned to us and said, ‘There’s your man’.

Some of the things which impressed us all at the interview proved to be great indicators of the contribution Basil would make over the next 10 or so years. First, there was his huge excitement and forthright enthusiasm for the potential of Te Ara. He could see straight away the role it might play in the Māori community, and he dedicated much of his boundless energy to achieving this. Second, there was his intuitive understanding of, and creativity about, the possibilities of digital technology. No-one else among the community of Te Ara geeks was so quick to discover natty new apps or ingenious sites. Third, there was his deep knowledge of Māori history and culture generally. Ranginui became very excited about Basil’s interest in the Kotahitanga parliament and urged him to continue working in that area. So it was great to see Basil complete his thesis on Kotahitanga two years ago, with Manatū Taonga’s support. In the community of Māori historians, he was a real leader. One of Te Ara’s finest contributors, Paul Meredith, notes that Basil was ‘very much a thinker about Māori history.’

Once Basil took up the reins, he did a brilliant job. It was a complete privilege to work with him through the next nine themes of Te Ara – not forgetting the Places entries, where Basil gave every entry a really close look-over from a Māori perspective. He was also a great travel companion on our trips around Aotearoa to launch those entries, and it was amazing how many Wharehouse stores around the country he managed to find on these fleeting visits.

I really enjoyed working with Basil on those nine themes. He quickly won the confidence of Te Ara Wānanga (Te Ara’s Māori advisory committee), showed leadership in drawing up rough entry lists and then listened carefully to the changes and hints dropped by members of the Wānanga. When it came to choosing the authors, Basil’s knowledge of expertise and local sensitivities in the Māori world was irreplaceable, and when the draft entries came his judgements about their strengths and missing bits were always acute. When it came time for him to write entries himself, they were consistently clear, accurate, hugely well-informed and pitched at just the right level. Just look for example at his wonderful entries on Pounamu (his very first), Te hopu tuna, Kotahitanga, and Whāngai. In all he wrote 25 Te Ara stories – about as many words as a good book.

Basil was also a really clever and generous promoter of others’ work – indeed one of Te Ara’s most popular blog posts was his ‘A beginner’s guide to finding Matariki’, which was designed to promote Paul Meredith’s path-breaking story about Matariki. In all Basil penned over 30 posts on the Signposts blog – including some classics, such as ‘Pit bull on the menu’ and ‘Top 10 things we share with Australia’. He was consistently a passionate enthusiast for the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, and drew on all his considerable powers of diplomacy to respond to those who challenged the iwi identification of certain tīpuna.

Over time Basil took on a real leadership role within Manatū Taonga. He had a powerful vision for the different ways that web technology might be used to benefit knowledge about Māori subjects. He was a great supporter of NZHistory.net.nz, and he was generous and understanding in guiding us ignorant Pākehā about what was fitting for a Māori audience. Many in Manatū Taonga called on his wisdom about appropriate tikanga for welcomes, launches and any public occasion. I appreciated that Basil could be quite firm and clear about what was needed, but always made his point without rancour or a loud voice. We quickly learnt to listen and follow his advice.

Finally Basil’s humorous engagement at morning coffees, his forthright contributions to the Dom Post quiz, and his perverse and highly opinionated judgements about Hurricanes rugby, Black Caps cricket and Warriors rugby league will be remembered fondly.

What a loss for Manatū Taonga; but I hope Basil is as proud as we are of his massive achievement. The 150 stories about Māori subjects in Te Ara will be his legacy.

Te tau hōu Māori: whakanuia!

Sounding conch shells at Matariki celebrations, Wairau Bar, Marlborough, 2009 (pic: Marlborough Express)

Sounding conch shells at Matariki celebrations, Wairau Bar, Marlborough, 2009 (pic: Marlborough Express)

Tēnā koutou, me ngā mihi o te tau hōu Māori ki a koutou katoa! Ae rā, ko te wā o Matariki tēnei, o Puanga rānei. Greetings of the Māori New Year to you all! To some iwi the new year is heralded by the appearance of the constellation Matariki (the Pleiades) in the sky, while to others it is the rising of the star Puanga (Rigel) that marks the start of the new year.

As you can read on Te Ara, Matariki/Puanga is an ancient festival, but one that had largely died out by the mid-20th century, before having a spectacular revival around the turn of this century. While I’m happy to be corrected, this year may in fact mark the 20th anniversary of Matariki’s modern revival.

In June 1995, Wellington’s Evening Post newspaper reported on a two-week festival, Te Whakanui i a Matariki, being held in the capital, mostly at Pipitea marae. Activities were to include kite-flying (which is traditionally associated with Matariki), demonstrations of Māori arts and talks on Māori issues. One of the key organisers of the event was the artist Diane Prince, and the event’s patron was Whetū Tirikātene-Sullivan, MP.

The modern festival of Matariki really took off in the early 2000s, particularly after it started to be promoted by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission). In 2004, Libby Hakaraia published a popular book, Matariki: the Māori New Year, introducing Matariki and its associated customs.

Today Matariki/Puanga is widely celebrated in communities across the country. Many people have also suggested that the Māori new year should become a new public holiday. In 2009, Māori Party MP Rāhui Kātene’s private Member’s Bill, Te Rā o Matariki/Matariki Day Bill, which would have made Matariki a public holiday, had a first reading but was not supported to go to select committee.

There are two main reasons given in support of such a holiday (apart from wanting another day off work!). First, that we should have a holiday that is truly indigenous and based on the seasons of this land. Second, that we need a day of celebration, in contrast to Waitangi Day, which (rightly or wrongly) many people associate with contention and protest. Some people have suggested that a Matariki/Puanga holiday could replace the Queen’s Birthday holiday, or that the Māori new year would be a more appropriate time than Guy Fawkes Day for fireworks.

What do you think about the modern revival of Matariki/Puanga?