Writings by renowned south Taranaki tūpuna Riwha Tītokowaru and Te Kāhui Kararehe will be on show in Pātea in an exhibition spanning Māori New Year and Māori Language Week.
Writing by the tireless campaigner Wīremu Kīngi Te Rangitaake, who often travelled south from Waitara to bolster resistance to land sales and military invasions, also features in Taranaki Reo, Taranaki Tāngata: Our Language, Our People, opening at Aotea Utanganui Museum, on 1 June.
Historical Māori manuscripts, examples of Taranaki’s distinctive reo – and stories of the people behind language revitalisation efforts – form the heart of this award-winning exhibition.
Running from next Saturday (1 June) to August 4, Taranaki Reo, Taranaki Tāngata is a collaboration between Te Reo o Taranaki and Aotea Utanganui, the South Taranaki District Museum.
Taranaki’s reo is best known for its “dropped” or aspirated ‘h’, but its distinctive nature goes much deeper. Historically, the dialect differed not only from other regions, but also between Taranaki iwi, from north to south.
In the mid-1980s, leading Taiporohēnui kaumātua Te Huirangi Waikerepuru and other community leaders rekindled efforts to strengthen Taranaki’s endangered reo.
They pushed for the 1987 Māori Language Act, Māori broadcasting, and influenced 2011’s Te Paepae Motuhake review of the Māori language sector.
“From the start, students were more hungry for Taranaki reo than for a standardised Māori language. People want to know their home language, including variations within the region,” says the chair of Te Reo o Taranaki, Puna Wano-Bryant.
“Te Reo o Taranaki was set up in response in 1985 to champion the revitalisation of the region’s reo in all its richness.”
“This exhibition reveals the unique nature of Taranaki reo and the huge efforts made for nearly 30 years to revive everyday use.”
“Coming on the heels of Ngaa Rauru’s Te Toi Ahurea exhibition at Whanganui Regional Gallery, such exhibitions signal the emergence of new approaches in museum practice, recognising the expertise held by Māori outside of mainstream cultural institutions.”
South Taranaki District Council Assistant Cultural Services Manager, Mrs Cath Sheard, said “Staff at Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki are excited at the opportunity to bring this exhibition to South Taranaki and look forward to offering a range of events for the public during June and July”.
Te Reo o Taranaki and Aotea Utanganui are also extending the exhibition’s reach into the community with an exciting events programme.
Lunchtime lessons during Te Wiki o Te Reo/Māori Language Week will help newcomers learn a little of the Taranaki dialect. Themed library displays in the south throw light on Puanga Kai Rau – Taranaki’s version of the Māori New Year (Matariki) celebration. Aotea Utanganui will also host a series of school tours – offered in both te reo Māori and English – across the exhibitions three-month run.
Taranaki Reo, Taranaki Tāngata comes to south Taranaki after a successful season last year at New Plymouth’s Puke Ariki, and recognition in last year’s national Māori Language Awards.