Māori Language Week spotlight: Wendy Evans, Business Support Manager

Department of Conservation —  15/09/2017

This week we’re celebrating Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori | Māori Language Week 2017. DOC’s Business Support Manager, Wendy Evans shares how Te Reo is woven through her DOC and raranga journey.

What is your role?

Kei te raranga a Wendy

I am a Business Support Manager/Pou Tautoko Kaipaakihi in the Planning, Permissions and Land Unit.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Working with adventurous people to create change and new ways of doing things.

How do you think Te Reo is relevant to our work at DOC?

For me it is a gateway into understanding more about Te Ao Maori/the Māori world. It’s hard to separate Te Reo from other aspects of Māori culture, like manaakitanga/looking after visitors, whanaungatanga/supporting each other, and wairua/the living essence of all things.

DOC manages an enormous amount of public conservation land – 8.6 million hectares – all of which was historically resources of Māori. I feel it’s important for me to understand why the lands and waters and protected species we manage are important to Māori, and how I can help iwi/hapu/whanau reconnect with these resources.

A friend’s mokos learning hākuku with Wendy

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I spent most of my non-work time in the last year learning about raranga/ weaving through Te Wananga O Aotearoa in Porirua. I’m now enjoying weaving without the assignments!  I’m also planting more pā harakeke/flax plantations of special weaving varieties for the future.

Wendy’s partly complete kete whakairo.

What are your favourite kupu raaranga?

There is a lot of te reo raranga/language associated with weaving. I enjoy learning the traditional techniques, tikanga and specialised kupu/words which help keep Te Reo alive. Kete whiri are kete that where the weaving is started with a whiri or plait.To weavers kete whiri also implies certain tikanga and preparation to have the harakeke/flax in the right state for the whiri to be plaited.

Kete whakairo in nihoniho pattern, made of kiekie (white), pīngao (yellow) and dyed harakeke (red and purple), with taonga.

Kete whakairo are fine pattered kete, and again weavers will talk about kete whakairo and imply the level of skill and knowledge of patterns required to make this work. I’m still tuning my ear though! I had to ask someone the difference recently between whakairo (patterns) and whakaaro (an explanation or understanding about something) to make sure I was using the right word!

It’s interesting that some phrases used in raranga have a different but related meanings in normal Māori life. For example kaupapa means a theme or philosophy. In raranga kaupapa is the term for the underlying construction of a kākahu/cloak to which the feathers are attached. The first row of muka/thread in tāniko/patterned finger weaving determines the pattern and is called te aho tapu/the sacred thread. Conceptually te aho tapu is also used to describe whakapapa/ lineage – the sacred [umbilical ]cord connecting generations.

The partly complete kete muka in tāniko.

There are Māori words that describe an object, that pop up as names for patterns in raranga. For example pātikitiki is a flounder. Kete with a pātikitiki pattern have bold repeating diamonds, and this pātikitiki pattern also can be found on tukutuku panels in wharenui/meeting houses. Niho means teeth and a kete with rows of triangles is descibed as having a nihoniho pattern.

Weaving has given me enormous respect for the ingenuity of Māori in using natural materials for vessels, clothing and housing. Harakeke yields silky muka/fibre through hākuku/skilled scraping with a kuku/mussel shell. How cool is that? And several native trees yield wairākau/dye (literally “water from trees”)  which can turn that muka bright yellow, rich rust or black (with the help of special swamp paru/mud).  Paru is a real treasure and can be hard to find. I got some friends to come and gather lots of paru from large earthworks at the Hutt motorway/SH 58 intersection before it was all covered up.

Wendy and Mahalia digging paru from the State Highway 58/State Highway 2 construction site, March 2016

What I love about my journey in Te Whare Pora/The House of Weaving is that there is always something new to learn.

Atia te wahine i roto i te pa harakeke.

Marry the woman found in the flax bush (for she is a weaver and very useful!)

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