Giving Māui a Māori voice


Cover of the English version of a new children's book on the story of Māuri fishing up the North Island, or Te Ika a Māui.


A new children's book re-telling the legend of Māui has just been published in English and Māori – a pleasing event for its Māori translator Dr Darryn Joseph, who says there's a dearth of books in te reo for younger readers. 

Nā Dr Darryn Joseph

He torutoru noa iho ngā pukapuka reo Māori e tāia ana e te rāngai tūmataiti, e te rāngai tūmatanui mā tātou, mā ngā kaipānui i te reo Māori, otirā, mā te hunga nohinohi e tupu ake ana i roto i te reo Māori. Nā, he mea tono ahau kia tū hei kaiwhakaruruhau, hei kaiwhakamāori i tētehi pukapuka pikitia hou nei, ka tere āmine atu. Nōku ka pakeke ake, kāore i a au tētehi pukapuka kotahi e whakaatu ana i te ao Māori, he ao hākoakoa, he ao pīataata, nā reira ko tā Donovan Bixley Te Hīnga Ake a Māui i te Ika Whenua he tākoha nui nō te ngākaupai.

He mea kē māku kia tonoa hei āwhina i te kaituhi kore reo Māori, ā, māna e whakaora ake te atua tangata kōrero Māori. He whakamihi nāku ki a Donovan me tā Kevin ki UpStart Press mōna i tohe kia tika ai, kia ū ai ki te whakaputa ngātahi i te pukapuka reo Māori i te taha o te reo Ingarihi, me uaua ka kite i tērā.

He aroro matatini tēnei mea te ‘tūturutanga’. Ko te mea tūturu ki tētehi iwi, kāore pea e tūturu ana ki tērā atu. Ko te mea tūturu ki a tātou e noho nei ki Aotearoa, kāore pea e noho tautika ana ki ō tātou whanaunga ki Tawhiti Pāmamao. I ngana ki te whāngai atu i ngā kōrero matua me ngā āpitihanga e hāngai pū ana ki te pūrākau, hāunga rā he kōrero tēnei nō te puna waihanga mō Māui ka noho hei taitama kē. Hei aha rā? Hei kukume mai i te hirikapo pohewa o te hunga tamariki.

E matareka ana ki tēnei momo i te waihotanga ake rā i te toa tūtahi, uarei nui rawa i kitea nuitia ki roto i ngā kōrero mō Māui. Hei tauira, i ngā kōrero tūpuna, nā Māui anō tōna ihu i moto kia pania tōna toto atua tangata ki te matau hei mōunu tapu i whakapoapoa ai i te ika nui whakaharahara. Kīhai au i tino pai ki te āhuatanga o te kiriwhakararu, nā reira i kī atu ai nā te tutetute a te tuakana ki te teina kē i pērā ai – ka makere mai te toto, heoi he paku rerekētanga. Pakeke rawa ake ka rapua e ngā taitamariki tā rātou e tika ake ai.

I tonoa a Donovan ki te waituhi i a Māui e whakariterite ana i tāna aho i te waka ānō nei e mahi ana te pōtiki i te whai wawewawe a Māui, arā, te kēmu whai. Āe, he hīnga anō nō tēnei mahara, heoi ka toko ake te urupounamu: ‘Nā Māui i hanga tāna whai wawewawe nōna ka hī ika?’ Ehara i te mea he hōhonu rawa, engari me mōhio ki te ao Māori kia kite mai ai i te māramatanga.

Te nuinga o tāku whai kupu he whakakipakipa atu kia ū tonu ki te kōrero matua me te whai i tā Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori whakatakoto i te kupu (kore kau he ‘s’ i ngā kupu Māori) me aua momo. Ko tā Donovan he whao i te toki ngao pae, ko tāku he whakaniko i te toki ngao matariki kia pai ake ai. He nui ngā mea itiiti noa nei hei matapaki mā māua, hei whakatikatika, pēnei i te arotake i te āhua o ngā pikitia whakamutunga kia noho tika ai. Ko te ahi i whakatangatatia hei tāne, turuki whakataha, i whakatikaina ai hei wahine. 

Ko te hiahia nui kia pōhēhē te kaipānui ko te reo Māori te reo tuatahi o tēnei pukapuka. Nōku ka mau i taku raihana whakamāori ka aro nui atu kia tau pai te kōrero, engari! Nā, ka whakaatu atu i taku tuhinga tuatahi ki tētehi kaipānui arohaehae nāna te kī – “Kāore au i te rongo i te wairua ‘ tino Māori.’” He pērā rawa te koretake? Ā, kāore. He pai noa, koinā tā tētehi atu kaipānui. Engari kāore au e hiahia ana ki te ‘pai noa’, ko tāku i hiahia ai ko ‘te mutunga kē mai o te pai.’ Nā reira taku whakapā atu ki tētehi hoa o mua ōku, ki a Keri Opai. Nōna ka whiwhi i tana raihana whakamāori neke atu i te 20 tau ki muri, ko ia te mea rangatahi rawa o Aotearoa, ā, nō nā tata nei ka whakawhiwhia ia ki te tohu puta noa i Te Pāpaka a Māui mō tana mahi whakamāori i ngā kupu hauora e kīia ana ko Te Reo Hāpai. I whakatikaina tāku mahi reo ki te tāpirihanga mai o tōna reo rerehua. Ka mutu, he aha tōna hiahia e tātou mā? He tīkiti whare pikitia. Ha, engari mō tēnā! Koia rā te āhuatanga nui hei whakapāpaku i a au i te putanga o tēnei pukapuka. Nāku i tono ki a UpStart kia whai kirimana a Keri, kia hauruatia te utu me te noho mai a Keri i te pae kaituhi. I te mutunga iho, he mahi tahi nā māua, nā Hēni Jacob i ētita me tāna momo tirohanga hōmiromiro. Mōku ake nei, i tīmata pai mai ka tau ki te pae pai mutunga i tā mātou i awheawhe ai.   

Te nuinga o te wā ka puta te pukapuka reo Māori ā pau noa te rua tau mēnā i ea pai i taua pukapuka tōna nama. Nā Kevin Chapman o UpStart te manawanui kia reo Māori te pukapuka me te whakarewa ngātahi me te mea Ingarihi. Ka mutu pea te mihi ki tō tātou reo Māori, me te whakaaro kia uru ēnei pukapuka, reo Māori, reo Ingarihi, ki roto i te kaupapa Duffy Books in Homes. 

He raruraru tonu kei roto i te pukapuka? Āe rā. I pānuihia tuaruatia taku kape hou me te aha i kitea ngā aho hī ika ki te wai, ka pakaru mai te kata. I whakaaro ake, ‘aī auē, ka kataina au e taku pāpā i te korenga ōku e aro nui ki taua hapa.’ E noho tau ana ngā aho tōia ai e te tō ā-nuku ahakoa rā kāore ōna māhē! Tiritama! Kāti rā, e ngākaupai ana kia tāpirihia tōku ingoa ki tō Donovan i runga i ngā pikitia whakamīharo me tana kōrero. E manako nui nei ka ihiihi mā ngā tamariki.Ngā mihi nunui i tēnei wiki o te reo Māori. Āe, kia kaha te reo!

Dr Darryn Joseph, as a judge at the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults last month (photo/New Zealand Book Awards Trust)


English version

The amount of Māori language materials being produced privately and publicly is a travesty for our te reo Māori readership, especially for the growing number of children learning te reo Māori from a young age. So when I was approached about advising and translating a new story book, I took the opportunity.  Growing up, I don’t think I owned one book showing Māori culture in a fun or bright way, so How Māui Fished up the North Island, by Donovan Bixley, is certainly a positive contribution.

It’s an interesting task to be asked to assist a non-Māori speaking author to bring to life a Māori-speaking character. I commend Mr Bixley and his publisher UpStart Press for being keen to ensure authenticity, and committed to publishing a te reo Māori version at the same time, which is rare.

‘Authenticity’ is an interesting concept. What is authentic to one iwi may not be to another. What is authentic to us in Aotearoa may not resonate with our Island relations. I tried to give the author as much central and peripheral information relevant to the story, while bearing in mind the story is a re-imagining of Māui as a boy to capture the imagination of tamariki.

I like this version, a departure from the muscle-bound, lone hero trope so common in Māui re-tellings. For example, in many stories Māui punches his own nose to smear his demigod blood onto his fishhook to attract, with sacred bait, the interest of a fish of great magnitude. I don’t like the self-harm aspect, so I suggested a rough-and-tumble brother elbow instead – still blood, but with a slight twist. As the kids grow they can learn their own correct version.

I also asked Mr Bixley to represent Māui in the waka sorting out his fishing line as if playing ‘Te Whai wawewawe a Māui’, or his string game. Another re-imagining that poses the question: ‘Did Māui invent his string game while fishing?’ It is subtle and you need knowledge of Māori culture to unpack it.

Much of my input was ensuring we adhered to the story and followed current orthographical conventions (no ‘s’ on Maōri words) and so on. Mr Bixley had the ‘toki ngao pae’ (the course carving adze), and I had the ‘toki ngao matariki’ – the finer chisel to give it a finer finish. There were many little things to fix and discuss, including a visual audit of the final illustrations to make sure they were appropriate. The camp fire personification as male was corrected to female.

I wanted the translation to read like it had been written in Māori first. As a licensed translator I had a duty to do the story justice but I had my doubts. So I gave my translation to a critical reader who said, “It doesn’t sound ‘really Māori’”. Was it that awful? No, it would have been fine, as another reader of Māori said. But I didn’t want ‘fine’, I wanted ‘fantastic’, so I phoned a friend, Keri Opai.

He received his translator’s licence more than 20 years ago and he was the youngest in New Zealand to do so, and recently won an Australasian award for his corpus development of Māori mental health terms, Te Reo Hāpai. He edited my Māori by grafting his own eloquent prose onto it. All he wanted as payment was some movie theatre tickets. That was one of the most humbling parts of the journey to get this book published. I re-wrote my contract with UpStart to halve any royalties and payments, and to include Mr Opai as co-author. In the end it was a collaboration, edited by Hēni Jacob who bought a third lens to the party. I think it went from average to fantastic with our collective input. 

Usually the Māori edition of a picture book comes out several years later if the book has done well enough commercially. Kevin Chapman, from Upstart, made a commitment to have it translated and published at the same time. What a fantastic acknowledgement of Māori language, along with a commitment to have this book, Māori and English editions, in the programme Duffy Books in Homes. 

Are there problems, still, in the book? Of course. I reread my new copy and as soon as I saw the fishing lines in the water I had a laugh. I thought, “Oh man, my dad who was a fisherman would have laughed at me for making that mistake.” The fishing lines defy gravity as there aren’t any sinkers on them! But I’m proud to have my name attached to Mr Bixley’s fantastic illustrations and story. I hope tamariki find it a fantastic read too.

Ngā mihi nunui i tēnei wiki o te reo Māori. Āe, kia kaha te reo! 

Dr Darryn Joseph (Ngāti Maniapoto) is a senior lecturer of te reo Māori at Massey University’s Te Pūtahi-a-Toi, School of Māori Knowledge. He's authored more than 23 books; mainly textbooks and chapter books for Māori immersion education. He has won the Huia Short Stories Award for te reo Māori twice and the LIANZA Librarian Te Kura Pounamu Award for "most distinguished contribution to literature for children and young adults written in Te Reo Māori".

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