Aotearoa New Zealand, 14 September 2020


An introduction by Witi Ihimaera

E nga rau rangatira ma, tena koutou.
Distinguished ones, all who serve humankind, greetings.

This week my colleague Michelle Elvy and I welcome you to Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori, Māori Language Week, Mahuru (September) 14-20. Every day of the week we will be posting contributions which highlight the Māori language and some of the dazzling creative contexts within which it is practiced.

In so doing, through this special feature, we honour not only te reo but all indigenous languages all over the world.

Te reo is one of New Zealand’s three official languages. Unlike English and sign language, it is spoken only here. Te reo Māori has been an official language in New Zealand since 1987. Since the Māori Language Act, New Zealanders are learning the language in record numbers. Māori ancestry is increasingly a matter of fact for many. The desire to grasp the opportunities of diversity has seen a huge transformation of New Zealand into an inclusive community. A significant outcome has been the increase in learning te reo from pre-school to primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. Understanding te reo enables us to evolve our lives in New Zealand and overseas, and to bring new perspectives to history, governance, cultural achievement and technology.

In the second decade of the millennium, New Zealanders, both Māori and Pākehā, have acknowledged the role of te reo in our daily lives. Māori words and greetings are heard in all our media; Māori Television has become for many of us our channel of choice. Government departments and industries affirm the role of Māori ceremonials both here and overseas. The city of Rotorua has declared itself the first bilingual city in Aotearoa. The hit Disney film of the year, Moana, was dubbed into Māori.

Our country has been fortunate, as there are many whose origin tongues have not been recognised. We mourn with you this loss for, as one of our ancestors, Tinirau of Whanganui said:

     ‘Toi tu te kupu, toi tu te mana, toi tu te whenua.’

     Without language, without prestige and without country, people cease to exist.

In the case of New Zealand, official language acknowledgement has been hard won. It has of course been part of a wider historic struggle over some centuries for sovereignty, political equality and justice that is still being negotiated today.

The writers featured in our special edition, therefore, know that they stand on the shoulders of many ancestors. They themselves are at the forefront of a remarkable transnational effort. To create sovereign spaces. New ways of thinking. Different ways of joining. Establishing transformational ways of ensuring an inclusive future. Ensuring that we, all of us, matter.

Whaia te iti kahurangi,
Ki te tuohu koe,
Me he maunga teitei

Aspire to gather the important treasures of life. If you must bow your head, let it be only to the highest mountain.



Māori Language Week: 14 September – poems by Haare Williams

Ngā Tamariki

Ngā tamariki
a Ranginui rāua ko Papatūānuku

are the sons and daughters
Of life’s longing for itself


Tell Me, Child

Tell me, child,

What is a word?

A word is something
which rolls round in my head
racing through ideas
popping from my mouth
and making, at last

A sound



Homai te waiora ki a au
I Te Pō i Te Po i Te Pō
Mauri ora e, ka awatea

I won’t teach you to cry
Grief has no place in you
Or Winter

I will teach you to laugh
And open yourself up
To the mysteries of joy

I will teach you to pray
The prayers of Earth Sky
Sea Forest Mountain Fire
To connect you as a child
To Ranginui and Papatūānuku

These you knew before
You were given to us

I will tell you
That you have made us immortal
Through you we will rise
And rise again

Awatea rawa!


Little Matariki

Pōtiki ka mau tonu tōu āhua
He mārire rite ana ki te whetū
Te tīmatanga o te ora
Tōu aroha kāhore he rāhui
He ringaringa iti noa
Kei tōu mana e piri tata ana
E noho, pōtiki
Ko koe ko mātau rā
Ka mau tonu tōu āhua

Twinkle twinkle little star
Matariki shines down from afar
Little hand clutching little heart
Pulsing trusting never part
Stay with us throughout the night
Te aroha twinkling light
That’s you – ātaahua


Dr. Seuss/ Tākuta Tītaha

Here’s what I’ll do!
I’ll sail to Katroo
And bring back an Ithkutch
A Preep and a Proo
A Nerkle, a Nerd
And a seersucker too
All for you and you and

E tama e, anei kē tāku!
Ka rere tere wai atu ki Kaaturu
Ka whakahokia mai he Irakati
He Piripi, he Purū
He Nēkara, he Nēta
Me te hia hakahaka tū
E tama e, anei kē tāku,
He taonga ēnei ki a koutou, nāku!



The child asks, What is aroha?
     To touch
To feel
     To listen
To hear
     To have


E Tū i Mua o te Rā

E tū i mua o te rā,
kia kore ai koe e kite i te ata

When you stand, face the early sun
so you won’t see the shadow beneath your feet




Haare Williams (r), with Witi Ihimaera

Haare Williams, MNZM, is one of Āotearoa New Zealand’s most beloved kaumatua, elders. He has been dean of Māori education and Māori adviser to the chief executive at Unitec. He was general manager of Aotearoa Radio and set up a joint venture with the South Seas Film and Television School to train te reo speakers as producers and operators in film and television. He has worked closely with iwi claimant communities and was responsible for waka construction and assembly at Waitangi for the 1990 commemorations as executive director of the 1990 Commission. He has published poetry, exhibited paintings, and written for film and television. He was a cultural advisor for mayors of Auckland, a senior Vice President of the Labour Party, and is amorangi at the War Memorial Museum. He is seen in the photograph with his cousin, Witi Ihimaera, on the occasion of the launch of his book, Haare Williams: Words of a Kaumātua, edited by Witi Ihimaera, and published by Auckland University Press, 2019. The te reo poems above are from the book.