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Te Wiki o te Reo Māori: Interview with Terehia Walker

We sat down with Terehia Walker, Depot Artspace’s Kaitohutohu (Cultural Advisor) for a kōrero about Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) and what it means to her, Depot Artspace, and the Tāmaki Makarau creative sector.

What does Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori mean to you?

At a national level Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi–an integral founding document–and the partnership between cultures in Aotearoa. 

For institutions and individuals, this week represents an opportunity to open the door to new learners of Te Reo Māori, to kōrero around language and culture, and to encourage connection within our communities.

Why do you think it’s important that workplaces support Te Reo learning?

Tūhonohono – Connection

Understanding Te Reo Māori language and principles is an essential part of interpersonal professional development in Aotearoa. As a place of work it’s important for staff to share an appreciation of the language and culture; for our teams, guests, stakeholders, and wider creative community, we need to encourage a sense of confidence and playfulness.

It’s OK to try and not be perfect because the main thing is to try, and through your efforts conversation and further growth will follow.

Have you got any tips for those who find it intimidating to speak Te Reo as they are not natural linguists?

It’s not a race, it’s a journey: everyone must have their own connection with Te Reo Māori. It’s important to remember that we don’t wake up knowing how to drive a car. We study, learn, and practice.

Better to confidently master a few words and introduce them into your kōrero than to memorise many words without an understanding of their contextual significance.

What is the best way you think organisations can support workplace learning?

Practice an appropriate karakia at meetings, encourage Te Reo use in email and communications, add workplace signage and label office objects with translations to develop vocabulary.

Start basic and increase complexity at a collective pace.

Learn Together–workshops, online resources.

Prepare–don’t leave it to the last minute if you have a speaking role coming up!

And don’t underestimate the power of post-it’s in the office to start encouraging word familiarisation of everyday objects. Depot just bought a labelling machine so they’re going for it!

How do we help our clients, audiences and partners as part of our commitment to increase Te Reo learning and speaking?

Have more Māori kupu up around the building; start exhibitions and events with karakia, have resources on hand and refer to websites such as Taringa Te Towhiri. Boards can also attend quarterly Te Reo sessions.

As well as sharing with us the importance of learning Te Reo, could you also talk to us about tikanga Māori and other important Māori values?

Māori values and tikanga or protocols are about being true to ourselves and being authentic. No tokenism. Karakia should be authentic–it’s more than the words, but about giving thanks and being grateful for the taonga from our tūpuna (ancestors)–including Te Reo Māori.

Kapa haka, waita, karakia, proverbs… We are blessed to have our culture, natural resources and environment to create in. Values and beliefs are gifts.

An example of tikanga is why we don’t sit on tables or wear shoes in a whare. 

Why, why, why. Why do we do a koha? Why is a woman’s voice the first voice of the karanga? The why gives purpose and meaning to our use of Te Reo Māori.

Terehia Walker brings an extensive professional background of kaitohutohu and kaiako (tutor) roles in non-profit spaces to Depot Artspace, and as a local of Te Hau Kapua (Devonport) she does everything with community at heart. 

For the past six months Terehia was teaching and guiding Te Reo Māori and Tikanga Māori at the US consulate for the US Ambassador and her team; prior to this she has worked in Te Reo Māori kaiako roles at Hauraki Primary and Literacy Aotearoa, with over twenty years of teaching experience. As well as volunteering for local schools through kapa haka, Terehia has volunteered at Te Taua Moana, the local Navy marae, where she supports rangatahi (youth) coming into the services and whānau environment. She has held previous Kaitohutohu roles across Harbour Hospice, Wilson Home, NZ Institute of Education, and Sevilles via MSD.

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