My father was New Zealand European and his best mate was a Māori fella. His name was Turi. He brought Dad into his whānau, as if he was a blood relative, openly and warmly, in a very ‘Māori’ way. Dad was always with Turi and his whānau throughout his life, cleaning up the marae, providing food from his garden and so on – he was part of it all. This meant that I was connected to Turi’s whānau growing up too.
I have always wanted to learn te reo, but never have. Turi’s whānau speak fluent te reo and it’s beautiful. My Dad passed away just over a year ago. At Dad’s funeral Turi’s son spoke and sang beautifully, in te reo. It was incredible, I will never forget it. Keeping it in the whānau, Turi’s son-in-law ran the funeral and spoke of life being like a veggie garden – the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Fitting for my Dad who always turned up with loads of veggies from his garden.
I’ve started a te reo course, it‘s going really well and I enjoy it. On our marae stay that was part of my course I was lying in the wharenui, looking up at the beautiful carvings and designs on the ceiling and I was thinking of Dad, because it was him who inspired me to be there. In that moment I made the decision to create a video for Dad’s one year anniversary in te reo, a kōrero and send it to Turi and his whānau. So, with our kaiako, our teacher, I created and wrote a speech essentially saying, “you were a huge part of my Dad's life and our life. Now that Dad is gone let’s maintain this bond, we are one whānau.” I read it out in te reo and recorded it, I sent it on Saturday to Turi. He replied, he was so grateful and so excited, that firstly I had reached out to him and was maintaining that bond and secondly, I was learning te reo.
The Māori culture has always been part of my life but sadly at a distance. Whilst we often spent time with Turi’s family, I never truly engaged with that side of it. We were connected but the language was something that was missed.
I know Matariki will become a more special day for me as I continue on my cultural journey. This year it was the day that I picked the first orange from a tree that Dad and I planted together three years ago. As a New Zealander I hope it becomes a special day to everyone who identifies as a Kiwi and is a day that is celebrated by all.