Tuesday, 9 July 2013

True Stories Told Live

I've been feeling depressingly poor in recent times. My poverty has been more pained than positive. The cure for this strapped-for-cash induced grimness = free stuff! 

I was fortunate in that my hard times coincided with Te Wiki o Te Reo, & by extension, the latest edition of True Stories Told Live. True Stories Told Live is run by the New Zealand Book Council, & features interesting people telling interesting stories. It's as simple as that. For Te Wiki o Te Reo the NZBC teamed up with City Gallery to present an evening of storytelling, set against the backdrop of Shane Cotton's latest exhibition. This sounded like it could be a brilliant night out, a perfect combination of things that I adore. I love free stuff! I'm so interested in Te Reo Maori & Te Ao Maori that I studied it at University! City Gallery is awesome! And hearing a good yarn being spun is heavenly to me. This is how I came to be hanging out with friends on a Wednesday night, drinking wine, devouring tasty nibbles, viewing beautiful (& slightly bogan) works of art, & listening to the inspiring korero of some truly awesome people. 

The first speaker of the night was Tama Kirikiri. I was particularly struck by this statement that he made: "If you don't pronounce a kid's name right they won't fully engage." Eep! My daughter has a Maori name (Kowhai) that is often mispronounced. Have I cursed her? No! I knew when I gave her that beautiful name that she would face a lifetime of having to correct people's pronunciation. I will raise her to be a Te Reo Warrior, & will train others, one teacher at a time, to get it right! 

Chief Executive of the Maori Language Commission Glenis Philip-Barbara was up next. When she said "I would not speak Te Reo without Kohanga Reo" I felt reassured. I'd love for Kowhai to attend Kohanga Reo to learn the language of her whanau. The fact that neither her father nor I speak Te Reo makes this idea pretty intimidating. Glenis gave me the hope & courage to go ahead and face the fear for Kowhai's sake. If I send her to Kohanga Reo our whole family will be richer for it.

Tanea Heke talked about taking New Zealand writers to the Frankfurt Book Fair, and being amazed at the reception they received from the Germans, who wanted to know as much as they could about New Zealand, Maori culture, and kiwi writers. And they wanted to learn all of this in a ten hour forum! When Tanea mentioned that one of the writers who was participating was someone I had studied with as an undergrad, I experienced that horrible worthless feeling you get when you compare yourself to someone else. "He's had a book published and has taken it to Frankfurt! What am I doing?" Yuck. Nothing like a bit of jealousy and competition to fuel the writing spirit. 

I was fascinated to learn that Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei picked her name when enrolling for high school, going from Leanne to Metiria in "an attempt to mark myself as Maori in the world." Names are powerful, & I love the idea that you can rename yourself to become who you want to be. What a Wilder Woman!

Rangimoana Taylor spoke about feeling different while studying at the New Zealand Drama School (now Toi Whakaari). It was a difference that has "nothing to do with colour, it's something inside." When he floated his idea of a Maori Theatre & was questioned with "Who will come?", his response was: "Well probably half a million people actually." Thank the Atua for people like Rangimoana. Another powerful statement that he made was "Some of you live on real estate. I live on land!"

I related so strongly to Awhimai Reynolds' story of selecting subjects at school and being told "Never mind Maori. Where's that going to get you?" She ended up learning French & Latin, neither of which she has ever used. Awhimai also said "Wherever you are on your [Te Reo] journey, there are challenges."

The session finished up perfectly with Glenn Colquhoun. His talk focused, among other things, on the manuscript Nga Moteatea, a selection of works collected by Apirana Ngata. Glenn said, on receiving this book as a gift: "I thought I knew the history of New Zealand poetry. What I knew was the New Testament, and here was the Old Testament." And: "Juxtaposed on the page was Te Reo Maori and Te Reo Pakeha, and it seemed like a metaphor for how we might communicate with each other. I was stuck by the equality on the page." Glenn's spine-tingling performance of one of the oriori he has written for his daughter was a wonderful was to end the night.

I encourage you to keep an eye out for events like this*. They are free or cheap, & happen all the time. This evening was the perfect cure for my money woes. It's hard to be blue when you are feeling so inspired.

*I heard about this event via City Gallery's facebook page.

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