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  • Stevie Hadfield

Māori are inherent storytellers

Māori are inherent storytellers and communicators.

Our kaiwhakairo chisel our narratives into rākau, pounamu and bone.

Our kairaranga use harakeke to weave our stories into intricate patterns.

Our kaitā etch our stories into skin.

Our makers of aute, through ancient and rhythmical beating, impress our stories into cloth.

Our kaitito, weavers of words and mātauranga, bind together waiata and haka that transcend generations.

Our orators and keepers of whakapapa, whaikōrero and karanga link the past, present and future.

For generations, our people have used, and continue to use, these channels of communication to share stories of our histories, of our whakapapa and of our environment. These things shape us as a people.

Over time, we’ve adapted and embraced new communication methods to store and share knowledge. For instance, when Pākehā settlers began to arrive in Aotearoa in the early 1800s, they brought with them various technologies, including the written word.

Our people swiftly and eagerly embraced literacy. In fact, Māori demonstrated such remarkable prowess in literacy that by the start of the 20th century, Māori had proportionately higher rates of literacy than Pākehā.

With pen and paper, our people found a new medium to communicate. And we continue to leverage modern technologies to share our stories and pass down knowledge through generations.

A beautiful example of communicating through contemporary Māori means are the pūrākau animations that have been crafted alongside Ngāi Tahu hapū. These animations share our tīpuna stories in digital form. A way of creating that is both ancient and new, and one breathes life into our tuhinga tawhito.

At the heart of storytelling and communicating through a Māori lens are Māori ways of working that uphold the mana of our people, te reo Māori and tikanga Māori. This is what sets Māori communication apart.

Māori communication means involving whānau at every stage of the journey to make sure they are happy with the messages to their people.

It means always honouring whānau, hapū and iwi in our stories.

It means always asking for consent for images of and stories about our people to make sure they have rangatiratanga over their own narratives and content.

It means always having an appropriate and thoughtful koha ready for whānau who contribute to our work.

It means sometimes setting up hui after hui and having heaps of cups of tea to get to know each person you interact with even before you get down to mahi. A familiar face means kōrero can flow with trust and confidence.

It is when the kuia you’re interviewing knows your last name, as our people engage differently when a personal connection exists.

It means sometimes finding yourself doing the dishes after an interview.

It means crafting messages that resonate with my aunty.

It is when my cousins can see themselves in digital stories because their ears, eyes and wairua respond well when they are represented.

With every stroke of the chisel, every intricate weave of harakeke, every rhythmic beating of aute, every word said and written and every image captured we breathe life into our rich histories and uphold the mana of our people and culture. To me, this is Māori communication.

Nā Stevie Hadfield

NAIA He Kupu illustration. The mouth of a mania within a freestanding koru form.

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1 Comment

Nov 02, 2023

Beautiful whakaaro, e hoa.

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