Reo Māori fitness keeping Te Wanihi Edwards busier than ever

By James Perry

Yvonne Te Wanihi Edwards, the presenter of the Whakaata Māori programme, Oranga Ngākau is in demand as a Māori language fitness instructor.

What started as a way to promote fitness for the elderly during Covid-19 lockdowns when many were isolated from friends and family is now keeping Edwards busier than ever.

"Mai i te wā i mutu au i te mahi kāore anō ēnei waewae i āta whakatā, i āta haere, i te hararei. E pokea ana a Te Wanihi ki te mahi. He mahi pai."
(Ever since I finished working, these legs have not stopped, haven't slowed down or had a break. I am so busy doing so many things. But I really enjoy it.)

She says she is often doing two or three classes a day keeping kaumātua moving. 

"Ko tētahi tino mahi e ngākaunuihia e ahau ko te manaaki, ko te awhi i wā tātou kaumātua."
(Looking after our old people, caring for them is something that I am really passionate about.)

Her classes, conducted in te reo Māori - her other great passion, have attracted many people to get active. And she says not all of her participants are Māori but the enthusiasm for the reo is still there.

"Te nuinga o ngā tauira he Pākehā, he Īnia, he Hainamana. Ngākaunui ana rātou ki te ako i te reo. He iti ngā kupu e whāngaihia ana e ahau, engari ko ngā nekehanga ko ngā waiata kei roto i te reo. Mārama ana rātou ki ērā."
(Most of my participants are Pākehā, Indian and Chinese. They all love learning and being exposed to te reo. I don't use too many words, but all of the moves and the music we dance too is Māori. They know them all now.)

As Te Wiki o te reo Māori approaches, Edwards says her busy lifestyle, far from the relaxed retirement she was anticipating looking after her mokopuna, is a fulfilment of what her own kaumātua gave her.

"Kaua e wareware, nā to reo koe i ora ai. Mā tō reo ka ora tāua. Kei te rongo tono i āku koroua."
(They always told to never forget that my reo is what made me who I am. By my reo we will all live on. I still hear my koroua today."