Manukau's growing aroha for Māori language and culture

By James Perry
Auckland councillor Alf Filipaina at the Manukau City Waitangi Day celebrations.  Photo/File.

Auckland councillor Alf Filipaina and South Auckland community leaders say the multicultural city of Manukau is showing an increased acceptance towards the Māori language and culture. Te Ao went along to one of the more diverse areas of New Zealand to gauge the thoughts on where we are as a nation, 180 years on since the treaty was signed.

A diverse city is expressing a change towards Māori culture.

"Listen to them pronounce 'Waitangi', how they pronounce 'Kia Ora', it is so awesome. They're not only learning that Māori are the people in Aotearoa, they're also learning around how we as a whānau can look after each other," Auckland councillor Alf Filipaina says.

It is not just the acceptance towards language, legendary Samoan musician King Kapisi says it starts with the small things.

"Had this dude walk up to me yesterday and he hongi-ed me. And he said, 'Should I hongi you?' I said, 'Hey, I believe that everyone should hongi everyone, all the time," Wiremu Urale (aka King Kapisi) says.

"He's from Scotland. It took a dude from Scotland to have to come up and hongi me and I said, 'Bro, that's normal. It's normal to me but it's abnormal to others and I think we should normalise it.'"

The main drawcard for the crowds are the local South Auckland acts but for one New Yorker in Manukau for Waitangi Day the traditional knowledge on offer is great.

"For me to come as an outsider, as a celebration of your culture, it's a really big privilege to be here and to see how proud people here in Aotearoa are of their heritage and their culture. It's really special and it's something I'm hoping to bring home with me," Ayhan Yener says, who is a student from New York.

His friend Catherine van Gessel was born and raised in New Zealand and admits her own knowledge of Māoridom was limited. But van Gessel says she has begun her journey to understand more and has also seen the normalisation of Māori in the communities.

"I talked about this recently with a Muslim friend and she talked about when she was growing up in New Zealand, she felt like a lot of these events focused on Māori and Pākehā and she wasn't included. And now I think she feels more included and enjoys these events," van Gessel says.

Councillor Filipaina says he will continue to celebrate diversity and support the push to normalise the Māori language and culture within the local community of Manukau.

"Waitangi Day for us is a big celebration but it is also celebrating our diverse community."