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More than one week, they kōrero daily

Jemma Voice and Melissa Ihaka make coffee and conversation outside Whaiora Medical Centre. PHOTO/ FLYNN NICHOLLS


At Whaiora, Kapu Kōrero is a coffee cart starting conversations over $3 cups of coffee.

Whaiora’s kaupapa [mission/strategy], according to its website, is to be a” ‘by Māori for Māori community-based health service for Wairarapa.

It was established under the umbrella of the Ngāti Kahungunu Māori executive, Taiwhenua.

Kapu Kōrero is a conversation space established in response to the emerging social challenges during the covid-19 pandemic.

Jake Carlson, Pouwhakahaere at Whaiora, said: “We knew many of our whānau were under a lot of pressure during that time so we hoped to create a space where we could enable people to reconnect. The hope was a hot kawhe [coffee] and a catch-up might help rejuvenate relationships and whakamana the mauri [uplift spirits] of the people.”

Whaiora led Tekau Mā Iwa, an iwi-led pandemic response clinic where people were invited to come down to the centre and kōrero about their concerns regarding vaccines, the virus and the mandates in a safe space.

Kapu Kōrero, parked out the front of Whaiora, began as an even more casual environment, with a preference for privileging a whānau-centred approach.

People could come chat and relax while visiting for any healthcare needs.

The kaupapa was so successful that now it lives on with a renewed focus on supporting the rejuvenation of Te Ao Māori [the Māori worldview].

People looking to practise Te Reo Māori can pop down and see the team at Kapu Kōrero.

Melissa Ihaka and Jemma Voice, two very friendly faces, were behind Kapu Kōrero’s counter on Thursday.

For Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori 2022, the Times-Age spoke to them about their experiences learning Māori as adults.

Ihaka is a trustee for Wairarapa at Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated based in Heretaunga [Hastings].

Voice works for Ngāti Kahunguni ki Wairarapa in the office.

They are both on journeys to learn to kōrero Māori as adults.

“I’ve just started, really; I know my pepeha and am working on my conversational Māori.

“I can listen to Matua Mike [Kawana] all day and understand lots of what he’s saying.

“I’m still learning new kupu [words] all the time,” Ihaka said.

“My nanny used to work at Hinetearorangi Kōhanga Reo [in Masterton]

“In some capacity, it’s been around, but we didn’t kōrero Māori at home.

“She [nanny] didn’t speak Māori to us as kids.

“She was from a generation where you didn’t,” Ihaka said.

Ihaka’s siblings and cousins attended kōhanga reo, and some attended Kura Kaupapa Māori.

She said knowledge of Te Reo Māori is coming back with each generation.

“Some of our tamariki understand te reo better than English. My nephew is always correcting my pronunciation or my kupu, and he’s five; it’s really cool.”

Voice said that some members of the older generation want to stay within their comfort zone.

“They’ve only lived within Te Ao Pākehā [the Pākehā world].

“It’s confronting to stand up and speak Māori when you’re not used to it.

“We’re trying to normalise it for the next generation.”

Voice and Ihaka say there is a need for more speakers.

“Those ceremonies and practices come through whakapapa [genealogy]; you have to be taught.”

Voice said that with learning the language, “the drive has to come from the person.

“It’s the only thing we can take back.

“After what our tīpuna have carved out for us, how could we not use all of the resources available to us to learn Te Reo Māori,” Voice said.

“Te Reo Māori is an important part of our culture, of who we are.

“We don’t want to value te reo one week a year; we value it every day; we kōrero Māori every day,” Ihaka said.

Ihaka and Voice say they are pleased to work within Māori organisations and iwi, where Māori is constantly spoken.

“I want to say it’s a privilege to work in a space that embraces Te Ao Māori fully.

“We have a tikanga that we follow, our tīpuna are on the wall, we say karakia and share kai.

“We are unapologetically Māori,” Ihaka said.

Both Ihaka and Voice intend to be fluent speakers in the coming years.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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