Te Waka Reo O Ngātiwai

Launched at Paratene Te Manu Marae in Ngunguru in July, Te Waka Reo is the latest reo project of the Ngātiwai Trust Board’s Te Reo Māori strategy.

Te Waka Reo is about encouraging the use of te reo and the speaking of it. A strong component of the programme is about encouraging participants to learn waiata and moteatea that were commonly heard in the times of our tūpuna, but not so commonly heard today.

Working with the national Te Reo governing body Te Mātāwai, Te Waka Reo was able to apply through the contestable investment fund that targets home and community-based Māori language revitalisation initiatives which contribute to revitalising te reo Māori as a nurturing first language. 

The Waka Reo team is made up of Merepeka Henley (NTB Trustee), Aperahama Edwards (NTB Trustee), Taipari Munro (Kaiako), Meri Barber (Kaiako), Elliott Heremaia (kai mahi) and Keatley Hopkins (Digitial Hub co-ordinator).

Kaiako Taipari Munro says, “It is very important that we build and strengthen our Ngātiwaitanga, and an important and really basic part of all that is our reo.”

“Second to that is the learning of the moteatea, learning of the old songs. Some people may think that it’s easy, but because we’ve been separated from singing the old peoples songs for so long, our modern ear doesn’t easily tune to the moteatea discipline, to the way that you sing in the moteatea way.”

“In the western way of singing, you’re supposed to sing from the diaphragm, but when our old people sang, a lot of them were singing up in the throat somewhere. When our tūpuna sang they would make some peculiar sounds when they sang, which unless you knew what those sounds were one could easily mistake the singer to be singing a flat note, but that is not the case”.

“That’s what that kōrero is saying, for us to strengthen ourselves within our Ngātiwaitanga, within our reo, our waiata, our tikanga and all those things that sit within our cultural identity as Ngātiwai people.”

Since the launch in July, Te Waka Reo have been holding weekly morning and evening waiata sessions. These are held at 9am each Tuesday morning at the Ngātiwai Education unit, Level1 – Semenoff Stadium and Tuesday evenings 5:30pm at Ngātiwai Trust Board.

Ngātiwai Trustee for Ngaiotonga and Te Waka Reo project leader, Merepeka Henley says, “Our team have a strong connection to our rōpu kaumātua, and through our kaumātua we sought and gained support for Te Waka Reo as they are the kaitiaki of ngā matauranga o Ngātiwai.”

“Our kaumātua kuia rōpu have a very strong kapa haka group and we’ve been blessed to be able to go into that forum with Matua Taipari and Whaea Meri Barber to start teaching moteatea and waiata, while also helping that kaupapa in terms of the kaumātua kapa haka.”

There three components to Te Waka Reo;

  • Ngā moteatea/waiata
  • The Digital Hub
  • Kura reo.

The digital hub was specially designed and included in the project so that regardless of where Ngātiwai uri are located regionally, nationally or internationally, and that if they have a desire to learn what the project has to offer, they are able to access it from wherever they are. However the encouragement will always be for those that want to participate to come home to wānanga with Te Waka Reo.

Currently the digital hub provides a closed Facebook group, “Te Tangi a Tūkaiaia”, where the weekly waiata sessions are streamed live each Tuesday morning. This platform also provides opportunities to share information, ask questions and engage with wider whānau via the group.

Ngātiwai are an iwi fortunate to have had tūpuna who were prolific writers and so there is a lot of recorded content in te  reo Māori. As the digital hub develops, the Te Waka Reo team will collate this content and make this available to uri o Ngātiwai via a digital platform.

With wānanga and kura reo scheduled throughout the year, the word is starting to spread, and more and more whānau are participating in Te Waka Reo. The Tuesday morning waiata sessions are seeing in excess of thirty people attending each week, and the evening classes over a dozen attendees and growing. The on-line Facebook group has grown to 238 members.

Kaiako Meri Barber says, “Learning and singing the moteatea can be likened to the chorus of the birds early in the morning, the wind blowing gently, the sound of the kōauau when someone is playing it or the chattering laughter of tamāriki. Those are some of the sounds that we are trying to recapture in our kaupapa, Te Waka Reo.”

For any whānau wanting to know more information about Te Waka Reo, they can contact Elliott Heremaia on 022 676 9248.

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