Language encouraged at gathering place
(Picture caption: Matapo Teariki or Auri, far left, is an integral part of the Cook Islands community in New Zealand.)
For more than 50 years, Enuamanu Atiu-nui Maruarua Society has provided a gathering place for Cook Islanders to speak te reo Māori Kuki Airani and practise cultural traditions.
When Matapo Teariki (Auri) moved from Atiu to New Zealand 32 years ago, it was not until he joined the organisation now based in Mangere two years later where he felt truly at home, alongside fellow Cook Islanders, and speaking his mother tongue.
Auri has spent the past three years as President of the Society, and he is clear about what his goals are in his role, he says.
“We all understand English is our second language and it is up to the adults in the Society to lead by example, and speak to our young people in our reo, to encourage them to do so,” Auri says.
“It is our job to make sure our language is spoken within the Society, so part of my role is to really encourage church leaders to take their services in the Cook Island language, and for members to speak it at the Society and in their own homes.”
The annual 'Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki 'Āirani: Cook Islands Language Week is being held from August 2-8.
It is the fourth of nine Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) Pacific Language Weeks in 2020, and this year’s theme is: Kia pūāvai tō tātou Reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani i Aotearoa, which in English means, That the Cook Islands Māori language may blossom throughout New Zealand.
The 2020 theme was developed by the Cook Islands Teachers and Educators Collective New Zealand (CITECNZ) and it has a strong focus on utilising technology and virtual platforms as a tool to promote language, culture, and identity.
With approximately 80,000 Cook Islanders calling New Zealand home, and the week is an opportunity for people to embrace and speak the language at home, school, in the workplace, at church and in the community, and to celebrate everything unique about the culture.
Auri has seen Cook Islands Language Week grow and evolve over recent years, which is hugely positive for his people, and the language.
“It is great to see the young people getting involved in language activities and to hear them on the radio speaking the language,” he says.
Currently the Society’s hall is under construction, so the group will not host any activities this year, however, Auri urges his members and the public to take part in the many events planned online.
Three decades ago, his motivation to join Enuamanu Atiu-nui Maruarua Society was to gather with other proud Atiu people.
It remains the same, and he says the group welcomes newcomers with open arms.