Toku Reo Toku Tango – My language is my foundation (Cook Islands language week 2013)

In this second blog post for Cook Islands Language week we have a contribution from Rosaline Hagai, who is a journalism student at Whitirea Polytechnic in Porirua, New Zealand.  On Monday, Rosaline was at Te Papa for the launch of the language week. Here she reflects on the importance of te reo (the language) for present generation of young Cook Islanders.

The official launch of the Cook Islands Language Week played a major insight for me as a New Zealand born Cook Islander.

Growing up, the moans and lectures on a daily basis from my mother about learning the language just didn’t make sense at the time. She would speak to us in Te reo kuki airani at home but at school we were taught to speak in English.

I thought learning the language wasn’t going to help me in school or get me a job but I was wrong, there was more to it. I have realised it is hard as the youth of today to sit down and listen to the stories from our parents about how or what they did back in the days. Now when I think of it, all of the history stories from our parents all make sense.

I am very fortunate that my mother is very traditional and maintains her roots as a proud Cook Islander. Of the many talents that we Cook Islanders have, my mother sews tivaevae. It never crossed my mind about the actual time and effort it took to create a tivaevae. I discovered that tivaevae sewing was a tradition that was passed down many generations, from my great-grandmother to my grandmother then to my mother and hopefully to me.

My mother always told me it was important to learn Te reo and keep my culture alive but it really took time for me to think about how and why it was important for me as a young person of today to learn about these things.

This week is about the sharing of Cook Island language through dancing, singing, storytelling, food, arts and crafts. I have realised as a young person regardless if you are a New Zealander born Pacific Islander or you only know a minimum of Te reo there is still time to learn and understand the importance of the language.

Learn the language because you want to and it’s all part of who you really are. Put it this way, we are the Pacific leaders for tomorrow!

Tivaevae by Mere Tapaeru Tereora 1980

One Response

  1. Tekura

    Too Right Rosaline! I think we (the younger “generators”) all have a sense of “shyness” or “embarrassment” when trying to speak te reo Kuki Airani – plus it doesn’t help when you are “shamed” for not being able to string a sentence together or speaking apa maori apa papa (half maori/half english) But this is should prompt our generation and the elders to be more supportive as frankly statistics has shown the Cook Islands language is close to being “extinct” (i hate that word)

    Kia akamaroiroi!


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