The Future of Maori Chant
IN AN ARTICLE in a recent issue of ‘Te Ao Hou’ (No. 48) Mrs A. Mihi Hill argues that Maori chant is unlikely to survive, ‘because not enough younger Maoris care sufficiently to help it survive’. She also says that ‘today if you want to learn Maori you have to be really keen, and once you have learnt Maori you have to be fanatic to learn the old chants. They are not easy to learn and, many would say, not easy to listen to’.
In my opinion this is such an important subject that all Maori culture group leaders should discuss it thoroughly with their groups and submit their findings to this magazine.
Maori Groups Increasing in Number
Personally, I do not sympathise with her sentiments, and I sincerely hope that not too many will.
Maori culture groups are more numerous today, and will continue to increase in number and popularity. All these groups are concerned with the preserving and teaching of our culture. Some people (including some Maoris) erroneously believe that Maori culture is only a matter of hakas, action songs and poi dances. By neglecting the other branches of our culture, we have neglected to rectify this misconception.
Hakas, action songs and poi dances are the most popular and best known aspect of Maori culture but they are not the most important part of it. From my own experience I feel absolutely certain that no student will derive satisfaction from learning just one branch of any chosen field. Since the majority of students are inspired by their leader, they will eagerly and happily absorb whatever he is willing to impart.
The Damage is Not Irreparable
Unless we are prepared to learn all branches of our culture, we will become foreigners in our own country. Pakeha culture has played havoc with certain branches of our culture, but the damage is not irreparable.
In my own group the ambition of all is to learn whaikorero, for we all realise that this is the supreme test. One can be a tohunga in every other branch of Maori culture, but if one's whaikorero is not up to standard, one's prestige or mana is lost. For this, knowledge of our history and customs is a big help, but knowledge of whakapapa, whakatauki, waiata, pao and patere is practically essential.
Enthusiasm and Pride
We are making slow progress, but we are progressing! What is more important is that the enthusiasm of the group has developed into pride! Where once we sniggered at tape-recordings of the old chants, we are now attentive listeners, absorbing every word and note and enjoying them. Consequently the opportunity to ‘test’ ourselves is eagerly anticipated. We do not find it difficult or monotonous to listen to the chants, nor could we be deemed ‘fanatics’. We are proud of our Maoritanga, so our love for all that is Maori is natural and automatic. For a start, eighty per cent of our members could not speak their own language, and did not care one way or the other whether they learnt or not. Today, it is a different story.
The Need is Greater
Mrs Mihi Hill also stated that ‘because of the impact of the new society there was not the same need or opportunity to gather and sing together’.
With so many young Maoris being compelled to migrate to the cities, I think the ‘need’ today is greater. Make no mistake about it, crime and delinquency is our national problem today. Government-supported Maori culture groups and sports clubs would give teenage Maoris somewhere to go and something to do with their leisure hours, for boredom and too much ‘time to kill’ make them vulnerable.
Culture Groups Not Publicized
Readers will say. ‘There are hundreds of these groups all over New Zealand’. I agree. However though many will deny this, Maoris have an inferiority complex and it is more pronounced in the cities than anywhere else. With their natural shyness and awareness of colour discrimination they soon give up the
idea of enrolling in a group. No publicity at all is given to the existence or whereabouts of culture groups in Auckland, so unless young Maoris are fortunate enough to meet someone belonging to a group, it is reasonable to assume that their leisure time is likely to be spent in a hotel.
Keeping Our Identity
To return to our pateres, paos etc., this is one branch of our culture that remains constant despite the ravages of time. As one of the very few taongas left to us by our tipunas, its value cannot be assessed in pounds, dollars or acres of land, but in love of race and pride of heritage—Maoritanga. This is a taonga no one could corrupt or take away from us, providing our group leaders do not neglect it. I cannot emphasise too much the importance of embracing our language and chants and keeping them Maori, for with their loss, the loss of our identity is inevitable. This is a tragedy that can only be warded off by studying our Maoritanga and in so doing, appreciating it.
In the words of the proverb left to his people by Sir Apirana Ngata:
‘Grow up, little one, in the way of your day and age, your hands grasping the tools of the Pakeha for your physical well-being, remembering in your heart the works of your ancestors which are worthy of being worn as a diadem upon your brow; your soul ever turned toward God, Who is the creator of all things.’
He whakatauki tenei na Apirana Ngata ki a tatau te iwi Maori:
‘E tipu e rea, mo nga ra o tou ao, ko to ringa ki nga rakau a te Pakeha hei ara mo to tinana: ko to ngakau ki nga taonga a o tipuna Maori hei tikitiki mo to mahuna: ko to wairua ki te Atua nana nei nga mea katoa.
Tena koutou, tena ra tatau katoa.
na B. R. Kora
Maunga Whau Maori Culture Group Auckland
At te aute college ten per cent of the boys are now Pakehas.
The headmaster, Mr R. G. Webb, says that he hopes that this increased Pakeha interest in the college will continue to grow, for it has created ‘a very healthy and beneficial balance in the school for all concerned’.
From the preparations made by the Central King Country Maori Golf Committee and with the help of our sponsors, Dominion Breweries, this year's Maori Golf Association Championships at the Tarrangower Golf Club, Taumarunui (held on 23–26 August) should be a really memorable occasion.
Always a highlight for our Maori golfers, the Championships are catered for on a marae basis. While this is so favourable for visitors and players alike, it calls for a great effort and much planning on the part of the local people. But this is a very good thing, for in many respects it is on these occasions that we see Maoritanga at work.
It is a time when new friends are made, and old friendship cemented, a time when the older folk hand over to the younger. It is, as well, a time when the stories of old are told, especially after the evening kai, and when golfing stories are also told freely.
Kia ora and good golfing.
Adult maoris who are studying for School Certificate or comparable examinations now total nearly 300, according to Mr John Waititi, assistant officer for Maori education in the Education Department.
Mr Waititi knows of 273 from study groups but he believes many others have enrolled in night classes in their centres or are working by correspondence.
The groups and the numbers attending are: Henderson 40, Huntly 18, Morrinsville 20, Hamilton 50, Murupara 40, Wellington 25, Auckland Technical Institute 20, Wanganui 15, Taihape 10, Tamaki 10, individual students know to the department, 25.
The figures are likely to increase soon because of interest in East Coast areas in the ‘back-to-school’ movement.
All centres with evening classes report interest still high, good attendances and evidence of application to spare-time study.
Maori adult students have Pakehas studying alongside them in all night classes. This has answered the only criticism that the movement had drawn, that it was too exclusive, says Mr Waititi.