Parekura Rohe-Belmont (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongomaiwahine) never thought that she would be pursuing a PhD, especially having just completed her Master’s recently.
In addition to this achievement, Parekura is writing her PhD thesis in te reo Māori.
The kapa haka composer and senior lecturer, who teaches in the degree programme at EIT’s Te Ūranga Waka, graduated with a Master of Māori Studies (1st class honours) at the beginning of 2021 and promptly enrolled in the PhD programme.
“There was a kuia in our cohort, who said, ‘No, we’re going to carry on. We’re all in it together.’”
“I just thought if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it. My whānau and my colleagues are all supportive.”
Parekura has a long association with EIT, having begun her undergraduate studies in 1995 and completed a Bachelor of Arts (Māori) at EIT, before going on to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Māori Performing Arts from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi in Whakatāne. In 2018, Parekura graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Honours (Māori) from EIT.
Parekura, who is a second language learner, is fluent in te reo Māori and credits her upbringing, her students, her lecturers at EIT, Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi for influencing and inspiring her.
Driven to add to Kaupapa Māori Research and encouraged to create something for her hapū, Parekura was supported by her supervisors and lecturers to complete her Master’s in te reo Māori.
“There’s not a lot written in Māori. I wanted to create something for my children, my nieces and nephews, my grandchildren, so that when they decide to study toward a Master’s, there’s something there for them to look at.”
Parekura plans to write her PhD in te reo as well and says that while she loves the English language, she feels she can express herself better in te reo.
As a composer, it seemed only natural that her Master’s thesis was based on her marae, Te Rauhina in Wairoa.
“I wanted to have a look at the songs composed for the opening of our meeting house. There were lots of songs composed around the late ’70s, early ’80s. I did a study on those songs, analysed the words within, identified the language features and then studied the composers of those songs.”
Parekura, whose PhD will extend on her Master’s thesis and focus on three marae, is in the process of writing the abstract and applying for ethics approval.
“My marae is at the end of the Wairoa River, but there’s actually thirty more on our river. My PhD research is based on three marae up the river – Te Reinga ; Rangiāhua and Whetū Mārama. Each marae have some traditional and some contemporary waiata, so I’ve chosen three marae that have special meaning.”
“Te Reinga marae is where my husband and son come from. Rangiāhua marae is where I spent a lot of time training for kapa haka competitions. My connection to Whetū Mārama marae, in Frasertown, is through my church, te hāhi Rātana.”
“I’d like to compose song to give back to those marae and their people.”