On the first day of Te Wiki o te reo Māori (Māori Language Week) we have a kōrero (talk) with artist and TLC tutor Keri-Mei Zagrobelna about her te reo Māori journey, and how we can all help keep te reo strong.
Kia ora Keri-Mei. Why is using te reo Māori important to you?
For me, the importance of using and learning te reo Māori is to keep the language alive.
I am still constantly learning my native tongue, it is an ever-evolving journey that helps to keep me connected to my heritage and whakapapa. My grandmother spoke Te Reo fluently but this was somewhat lost in my mother's generation, although we spoke some Te Reo the majority of our language was in English.
I do not want my future children to miss out on Te Reo so I am consistently doing my best to educate and teach myself so that the next generation can be empowered and feel connected to their roots. In many cultures language is a key part of identity and community, Te Reo is a part of our national identity and although once considered a dying language and the Māori a dying race we can see very much that it is not the case.
It is up to each of us to be open enough to respect one another's cultures, languages, ideas and customs so that we can move forward to build a more positive future.
You can just start simple with phrases like “kia ora - hello” or “ mōrena - morning” and go from there.
How are you celebrating/acknowledging Māori Language Week?
There is a mix of ways in which I will be celebrating and acknowledging this year, from speaking Te Reo with ngā hoa (friends) and whanau (family) around the whare (house) and mahi (workplace), taking part in the Māori Language Moment, watching te reo Māori movies to playing Māori radio and the contemporary Māori Waiata playlist from SOUNZ. I will be practising my mihimihi (speech) and also blessing my food with karakia (prayer/salutations) and just being generally grateful that I currently reside in a neighbourhood and workplace that is accepting and positive.
When heading out to cafes I will be ordering my coffee in Te Reo.
“He mōwai koa” - a flat white please - and now you know what to get me next time hahaha
I basically will be making an extra conscious effort to instill it in my everyday life and practice to help with the revitalization and normalization of the language.
You’ve described your object/jewellery art as a means of understanding cultural uniqueness and diversity. How does your creativity connect to your Māori identity?
If people make a cultural connection to Māori Tikanga through my work, then I’ve achieved in building a connection. If they just enjoy the work for the craftsmanship and aesthetics, then that is great, too.
Your jewellery has individual Māori names. Do these names have meanings?
Māori objects, whether they are of stone, wood, or bone, usually carry a name. The names are determined by the design or the maker. Giving the object a name can explain the object’s whakapapa (genealogy) and narrate different stories or the historical significance of the piece. I let the wairua (life force) of the object and my intuitions guide me when naming a piece.