Sunday, November 28

Te Reo Māori Challenge Popularity Surprises Organizers

Those behind a month-long challenge to speak as much Te Reo Māori as possible say they are in awe of how popular it has become.

Paraone Gloyne only speaks Maori in September.

Paraone Gloyne in 2014.
Photo: Supplied

Today is the first day of Maori September, a month-long celebration of the language that thousands have signed up to participate in.

But its beginnings were humble. In 2014, Paraone Gloyne, a Pou Tikanga in Te Wananaga or Aotearoa, pledged himself: he would speak only Te Reo Māori for a month.

“I looked at some of the other months, you know, you have Dry July, No Junk June or whatever and then you have Movember, and I thought: I’m going to make one for Te Reo.”

Since then, Mahuru Māori has become a kind of movement.

“There were three of us that first year,” Gloyne said. “And then the next year we got 500 people, then the next year it was a thousand, and it just grew from there.”

This week, Mahuru Māori’s website has struggled with demand and some of the largest companies in the country have joined.

While those who can pledge to speak only Te Reo Māori, Gloyne had a wero for everyone: speak as much as you can every day.

Gloyne said she did not imagine her challenge taking on the meaning it does, nor did she imagine it becoming an all-encompassing celebration.

Embedded in it, next week, is Maori language week. Also released as part of it has been the latest in the popular Sing hymns albums.

On top of that, some of the country’s biggest hits, like Six60, Anna Coddington and Stan Walker, are translated and performed in Te Reo Māori.

One of the project’s key translators, Hana Mereraiha, said the project had proven to be very popular with the public and the artists involved, both Maori and Pakeha.

“I saw some of the artists go through a journey with that, you have to see this vulnerable side. Some of the fears and apprehensions,” he said.

“But what’s rewarding for me is seeing them come out the other side and just the joy and euphoria of ‘OMG, I did this amazing thing and now I want more.’

Paraone Gloyne said the popularity of the albums and events reflected an increase in demand for Te Reo, where class spaces are becoming hard to come by.

This year, the Mahuru Māori month has started in mid-September, a new twist to align with the Maramataka, the Maori lunar calendar.

Professor Rangi Mātāmua.

Professor Rangi Mātāmua.
Photo: Waikato Museum

Dr. Rangi Mātāmua, astronomer and calendar expert, said that September is a phase, the beginning of spring. It means rebirth, regrowth and renewal, just like language.

“So aligning that kaupapa with the actual moon phase is another dimension, it adds a deeper meaning to the show because it is truly Mahuru, number one, but it is also an indication of how the language informs culture and cultural practices.

“So the lunar calendar is embedded in Maori society.”

As she reflected on how far the event has come on her last day of speaking English for 30 days, Paraone Gloyne said she only saw that it was a fragment of a larger picture. Mahuru Māori was just one step in a decades-long journey towards revitalization, he said.

Hana Mereraiha said that a key part of that has been waiata.

“I was just having a korero for Louis Baker this morning [and] He was just saying that he had fallen in love with Te Reo. That’s great, the kaupapa is amazing for him personally, but also the contribution to our prisoner, to our waiata is also amazing.

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