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Turia Speech: Opening of Te Ra o Te Reo Festival

Tariana Turia Speech: Opening of Te Ra o Te Reo Festival

Te Rauparapa Park; Porirua

Tariana turia, co-leader, maori party

member of parliament for te tai hauauru

saturday 12 November 2005; 10am

E nga mana, e nga reo, tena koutou. Ngati Toa Rangatira, tena koutou.

E nga kaiwhakahaere o tenei hui, tena hoki koutou.

Na te ngutukura ko te hinengaro,

na te hinengaro ko te mahara,

na te mahara ko te whakaaro,

na te whakaaro ko te korero,

ma te korero ka tu he tikanga,

he taonga nui te reo.

I tipu mai te reo i te whenua,

ahakoa kei whea, i nga tipuna ahakoa ko wai.

Ma te reo ka mohiotia no whea, ko wai hoki tatou.

I was so humbled to be invited to come along today, to Te Ra o te Reo, mai i nga tipuna.

Sometimes life can be pretty hard-going - this week we have felt that perhaps more than most - and we all need to find ways to restore and regain a sense of joy, of pride, of well-being.

And what better way than to be here, celebrating the sharing of our language across our diverse and wonderful cultures.

I want to really acknowledge the hard work of Jacqui Keelan and the support of Ma Te Reo, Auahi Kore, Waru Records and all the others that have made today possible.

Language is to be treasured - it is from our words and our korero that our customs and our culture is affirmed.

The language of the people is the language of the land regardless of where that land may be, it is also of the ancestors regardless of who they may be.

Language identifies where we are from and from whose birth waters we have come.

From where I come from we say, ‘Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko awa’ which places me as uri, descendant of the Whanganui River. Literally I am the river and the river is me.

In those nine small kupu, the connections to our cultural and natural heritage are summed up.

It distinguishes between the physical and spiritual dimension that binds the people to the river as it travels from the mountains to the sea.

It also speaks of the well-being of te awa tupuna, our ancestral river, as being intertwined with own well-being.

And all it took was nine words!

That importance of the connection between our language and our identity is core to the source of magic for the best of RnR hip hop in te reo - with the roopu, Ko Au.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Ko Au a number of times over the last few years, and it is so exciting to hear their fresh, rap sound in te reo. They bring with them the best of being Ngati Porou, Whanau a Apanui, being tangata whenua. Ko Au - and they’re playing here this afternoon.

Another of the artists that will be here this afternoon, Sane Sagala, has spoken about his decision to reflect the pride of his language, the strength of his whakapapa, in his use of the name, Dei Hamo. He said:

“Dei Hamo; meaning "I am Samoan", is a strong statement about identity and representation. Yes, to represent, it's the unbroken code of hip-hop, affirmation of self, family, street and community. Without that you just got nothin'”.

Whether it’s te reo, or Niue, or Samoan, or Mandarin - our language is the way in which we explain our world.

It preserves and protects our whakapapa, our identity, our culture.

Our language expresses not just what we think but how we think. It expresses not just what we are saying but who we are. A people's language is a priceless treasure and no culture can survive without it.

Sir James Henare talked of the language as being the core of our Maori culture and mana, the indigenous tongue of this land.

Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Mäori
If the language dies, as some predict, what do we have left to us? Then, I ask our own people who are we?...

Therefore the taonga, our Mäori language, as far as our people are concerned, is the very soul of the Mäori people.

It doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be a full on whaikorero, delivered with all the force of our finest orators.

Sometimes it may be as simple as two words. But even two words can change the world.

Twenty years ago in 1984, Aotearoa was brought to a standstill by exactly that - just two words.

From the day Naida Glavich started working at the Post Office in 1971 she had always said “Kia ora, Tolls here” as a greeting indigenous to this country, a tangata whenua right - a way of connecting to the callers who rang through on the switchboard.

That simple salutation did not meet with the approval of a new supervisor, who wanted to standardise the greetings.

Naida was told at her age, that language was unacceptable and she was placed on ‘off-board’ duties. Naida got into her car and drove away, pondering her next move.

“I heard this voice in my ear saying to me “Nui ake tenei take ia koe” - this issue is far greater than just you. I thought it was the wind whistling away, so I wound the window up. I heard the voice again. At that point I realised I couldn’t back off”.

We all need to listen out for those voices inside us, that remind us of who we are, and take small steps to make the impossible possible.

I had a laugh last night looking at a NZ tourism website where it explained the New Zealand welcome as:

“kia ora means hello or in NZ speak gidday. The young ones tend to say "kia ora bro" and the old ones tend to say "kia ora" and give you a hongi.

So haven’t we come a long way - from the simple resistance of one telephone operator to our reo becoming the NZ norm.

Thinking back to that ‘kia ora story’, Selwyn Muru once said

“I have timed the length of time it takes to say kia ora, its shorter than the length of time it takes to say good evening or good morning. However to expect a Maori to say good morning or good evening is like expecting a kaka to sound like a seagull.”

What we can all celebrate here today is that whether we are a kaka or a seagull, the path we fly will be unique to us - and Te Ra o te Reo is here to shout out loud, to be proud, to be who we are.

Ki a koutou, nga matua, nga whanau - kia ora koutou, kia ora tatou katoa.

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