Rich body of research from Te Ūranga Waka and Te Whatukura

Rich body of research from Te Ūranga Waka and Te Whatukura

COVID-19 affected most people’s lives, but for the staff of EIT’s Te Ūranga Waka and Te Whatukura, it also gave them more time to immerse themselves their research.

Pareputiputi (Puti) Nuku, Pouarataki of Te Ūranga Waka and Te Whatukura says that despite 2020 being a disrupted year, some meaningful research was done by her staff.

“One of the most exciting initiatives our staff was involved in was a research project with Radio Kahungunu. This involved researching the type of language used by people who have long passed away, using their archival recordings.”

Puti says the focus of the research, which was funded by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga (New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence) and was a collaboration between EIT and Radio Kahungunu, studied archival voice recordings of Kahungunu elders.

The research was led by Dr Joe Te Rito, EIT’s former Dean of the Faculty of Māori Studies, who was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor in 2019 so that he could undertake the study.  Dr Te Rito is currently a Deputy Director for Ako Aotearoa (National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence). Puti and senior lecturer Hiria Tumoana were also part of the research team along with other staff Pairama Wright and Jamie Nohokau.

EIT and Radio Kahungunu have a relationship that began about 32 years ago when Radio Kahungunu was a Māori student radio station at the then Hawke’s Bay Polytechnic (now EIT).

The aim of the research was to unlock the “vast potential” contained within the conversations of tribal elders.

“We were looking for dialectial differences, common words that aren’t used anymore and things like that.”

Put says it was hoped that these recordings will strengthen the oral skills of people learning the language by providing concentrated “high-quality”, spoken Māori on an ongoing basis.

Almost 60 recordings were listened to and were all transcribed and made into a talking book. The research has also been presented at a community hui and reporting back to Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga in November last year.

Meanwhile another member of Puti’s staff, Pētera Hakiwai, a Kaiwhakaako at Te Ūranga Waka, was involved in the launch of a translated te reo Māori website and chatbox designed to help reduce the barriers Māori communities often face when accessing mental health services.

Clearhead, a Kiwi digital mental health company, worked in partnership with nib New Zealand and nib foundation to launch the services in Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) last year.

Clearhead said that Māori populations are consistently over-represented in New Zealand’s suicide statistics, are twice as likely to experience mental health issues compared to non-Māori, and 1.5 times as likely to report experiencing anxiety or depression.

In a press release announcing the launch last year, Pētera, who was integral in making the te reo Māori platform operational, said Māori are very private when it comes to their health and wellbeing.

“It’s critical that they have access to suitable support services and so having a digital, private and culturally appropriate offering available in te reo Māori is encouraging and can be really empowering,” he says.

Pētera was also involved in another project with a fellow Kaiwhakaako at Te Ūranga Waka, Parekura Rohe-Belmont, where they were asked to teach at the Te Kura Reo ā-Iwi o Ngāti Kahungunu 2020, which was a week-long total immersion wānanga for speakers of medium to high levels of fluency.

“This is a real honour as they were part of a team of six people chosen from experts of te reo Māori across the country,” says Puti.

The event, which was held at EIT in October last year was changed to accommodate social distancing as a result of COVID-19. Six teachers, including the two from EIT, were used and attendance was restricted to 100 people.

Another initiative that Pētera participated in was Reo Māori SongHubs, is a collaborative songwriting wānanga, bringing together experts in music creation and waiata reo Māori to further the development of a bi-lingual music industry. The event took place at Waimārama Marae from Monday 16 November to Friday 20 November 2020.

The curator of the programme was producer/collaborator Joel Little, while pre-eminent mātanga reo/language specialist and songwriter Sir Tīmoti Kāretu was the reo curator. Pētera and four other mātanga reo/songwriters, Jeremy Tātere MacLeod, Leon Te Heketū Blake, Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes, and Ruth Smith guided and assisted with the sessions.

The songwriters present were Bic Runga, Diaz Grimm, Kings, Louis Baker, Maisey Rika, Matiu Walters, Reuben Fleetwood, Seth Haapu, Theia and Vayne, while the producers were Brandon Haru, Rory Noble, Liam Conrad aka Stuss, Te Whiti Warbrick aka SickDrumz and Sam Taylor.

Hiria Tumoana, a Senior Lecturer at Te Ūranga Waka, was also involved in a long-running research project for the Hawke’s Bay Emergency Management Group. Rūaumoko’s Walk was a dual language large format storybook for early childhood, to teach children about earthquake and tsunami, as told through traditional Māori oral narrative.

Printed in 2014, the authors were Rawiri Andrews and James Graham, with Hiria as an additional content writer. In 2019, further design and development saw it become a fully animated and interactive digital book as part of a QuakeCoRE project. This was completed in September last year.