Asian community getting behind te reo Māori

By Tema Hemi

This year's Māori Language Week will be a first for some Asian immigrants who are learning the language.  They say they want to learn more about the indigenous culture of the country they now call home. 

Te reo, it's not on the menu but this group is feasting on it. 

Māori language student Julie Zhu says, "I have opened my mind to the treasures of the Māori world and the uniqueness of Māori history of this country.  It is very special for us as foreigners of this country to learn of the history of this country because for me...this is where I call home now."

For three years the students have been going to Waitangi.  They were inspired by a post supporting tino rangatiratanga, posted by Green Deputy leader Marama Davidson, which went viral. 

The group of friends have been meeting once a week to strengthen their ties with te reo and Māori culture.

Zhu says, "When I first started to learn the Māori language I was the only Asian student in my class, but now I think there are many Asians that are wanting to learn also."

The group are also aware of the effects of colonisation.

Māori language student Tze Ming Mok says, "Embracing te reo Māori and embracing tino rangatiratanga- for me, it gives me the option of looking at the perspective in a different way which is 'why does a Pākehā have more right to be here than any other tauiwi?'"

They are encouraged by mayor of Gisborne and reo speaker Meng Foon.

Zhu says, "For me, Meng Foon is a great role model, he is fluent in the Māori language, he is paving the way for the Chinese and Asian communities to learn the Māori language, he promotes Māori incentives and why its so special to learn the Māori language."

The Bun Hut in Dominion Road is where they meet to share their experiences but each one has chosen their own individual reo path to pursue.