PM scholarship boosts Māori and Latin American links


The Universidad de Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia (photo/Wikimedia Commons)



Dr Leonel Alvarado

Sharing and comparing experiences of colonialism, indigenous language revitalisation and art will be the focus for a group of New Zealand and Colombian students and academics, thanks to a Prime Minister’s Scholarship.

A group of Massey University students will forge links with indigenous students of Colombia later this year when they showcase innovative Te Reo Māori language learning methods as well as knowledge about the Treaty of Waitangi and its role in New Zealand’s history.

A group of 12 students, yet to be selected, will attend a university in the Colombian city of Medellin, in a new partnership that reflects the increasing cultural, linguistic and economic ties between New Zealand and Colombia, says Dr Leonel Alvarado. He led the scholarship application and heads Massey’s Spanish Language Programme in the School of Humanities.

The Massey project, funded by the scholarship and titled LatinoAotearoa: Spreading the Word Across the Pacific, will see four students each from Spanish language, Māori Studies (Te Reo Māori) and Māori Visual Arts programmes travelling in October to the Universidad de Antioquia. They will first do a Special Topic in Semester Two, exploring cross-cultural links between Spanish, English and Māori languages and cultures as well indigenous languages and cultures of Latin America.

Indigenous people, or pueblos indigenas, of Colombia comprise 3.4 per cent of the country’s 46 million population and belong to more than 87 tribes.

Dr Alvarado will team up with Hone Morris, the Academic Coordinator of Massey’s Te Aho Paerewa programme (Postgraduate Diploma of Teaching and Learning in Māori Medium), as well as Israel Birch, Lecturer in Toioho ki Āpiti (Bachelor of Māori Visual Arts) under the College of Creative Arts in bringing the project to fruition. Tim Croft, International Manager at Massey’s College of Creative Arts in Wellington, was also instrumental in preparing a successful proposal, says Dr Alvarado.

Dr Alvarado and Mr Morris will present to Colombian indigenous students and teachers their inventive language teaching methods in both Spanish and Te Reo Māori, which they have developed at Massey University. The Spanish language programme is also taught in Australia.

As well as learning about language teaching approaches, Dr Alvarado says the Colombian students will be interested to learn about aspects of New Zealand’s indigenous cultural life, including the role of the Treaty of Waitangi, the revitalisation of Te Reo Māori, the existence of a Māori political party and television channel. “These things just don’t exist in Latin American indigenous cultures,” he says.

As part of the project, Māori visual arts students will design and create an artwork to be installed at the Colombian university’s campus.

It is hoped the project will become a biennial study tour with students and staff from Universidad de Antioquia coming to Massey in alternating years.

For New Zealand students, it will be a chance to be cultural ambassadors as well as “an invaluable opportunity to work and interact with their Colombian peers and develop collaborative projects that foster cultural understanding, connections and lifelong friendships,” Dr Alvarado says.

Both countries share many commonalities, including a complex colonial history, a rich indigenous culture, vibrant and socially engaged art, a concern for environmental issues and an interest in developing local, national and global citizenship opportunities, he says.

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