Te Reo Maori at Whakamarama School


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This afternoon will be my fourth lesson in Te Reo Maori round the corner at the beautiful old school in the historic district of Whakamarama.

The pouwhenua opposite the entrance to the Puketoki Reserve commemorates Te Weranga ki Whakamarama (the burnings at Whakamarama) when colonial forces attacked and burnt villages prompted by Maori opposition to land sales and settler expansion.

The 36 week course is run by Te Waananga o Aotearoa and it includes classroom and distance learning, marae visits and whole day attendance at the Waananga.   It’s so popular that two three hour sessions are needed to provide for all the adult students at the School.  And who are these students?   I’d say they’re a pretty representative cross-section of our district community with some early child care and teaching professionals.  

It involves a bit of work on your own behalf and three hours of joyful learning in the company of interesting people.  And of course there is the afternoon tea.

Sharon’s famous caramel slice with its rich (and thick) chocolate topping

Carolyne Taylor travels from urban Tauranga to participate

Part of the decking area outside the staff room

The programme used by the Waananga incorporates relaxation, movement, group language sharing and the subtle infiltration of Te Reo Maori.   I find I’m driving around the place repeating suburb and road names; listening  again to those action songs from University kapa haka days. Sitting, standing and singing along with all sorts of waiata. Intently watching Maori Television to see if I can pick out the newsreader’s words.  I get diverted here watching Stacey Morrison and two young people making the most beautiful bean and spinach salad followed by bliss balls.   I also get diverted by the on demand documentaries available on this station. 

A gift when I came down to Tauranga – now I carry it round with me but use the online Maori Dictionary

I keep practising my vowels and my vowel blends with the new friends I’ve made on YouTube.   I adore the online Maori Dictionary – not only does it provide a meaning, have a sentence in te reo using the word but also there’s this lovely little microphone to tap – you can hear the word/s.  

The beautiful classroom we use for our lessons (and in the corner there is a wood burning stove for winter as we are in the Kaimai Range and it can get a bit chilly!)

Do I think I’m going to  “pass” this course.  Maybe not now I’ve met the pronouns!  But I don’t think that will mean either the course or me will have failed.   I know by the time I get to the end of this learning year I will have had a wonderful time, learned more about people in my community, learned how to pronounce one of the official languages of New Zealand and perhaps gained a wider understanding of the Maori world view.  

Rosemary Balu.           Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.

Here’s a wonderful example of the every day contemporary use of Te Reo Maori from Sharon Holt of Te Reo Singalong.  If you have read earlier articles in  ARTbop you’ll know that I have spent a great deal of time in the Greerton Library and love its vibe. 

This class of children has been teaching me!

One interpretation of Pa Mai


This was always my favourite!

While you’re here take a walk on two roads near the Puketoki Reserve in Upper Whakamarama.  This is a public reserve cared for by a local group Friends of Puketoki. 

The art of walking Whakamarama


The Place Where I was born: Mount Reminiscing

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