Nā Mero Rokx
I love the term ‘Te Awe Māpara’. I use it for a lot of things. I use it to describe the future – what’s beyond the horizon? He aha kei tua i te awe māpara? I use it to gather information about new people – ko wai kei muri i te awe māpara? Who is this new face I see, who are their whānau and where are they from?
Recently I’ve been using the term Te Awe Māpara to describe online avatars. Like all cultures across the world, our culture has not held back as our world has evolved and become more and more technologically advanced. Māori people are natural innovators. For every Pākeha tool that arrived, we had our own version. You know how Kiwis are well-known for their ingenuity? No.8 wire? Yes, well, that concept originated from Māori – te waea tuawaru – but in our case, nothing a bit of harakeke couldn’t fix.
So when a game called Minecraft became the second most popular kids game in the world, Māori children were right there at the forefront, creating their avatars (awe māpara) and creating their worlds, interacting with other children from the other side of the world. Some mātua would even contest that Minecraft became a bit of hōhā in their whare!
Hei Reo Whānau was also born into the world of technology. In fact, it was established because of technology. Imagine this – a reo Māori enthusiast and māmā creates a group on social media for parents of Maori speaking children to come together and share whakaaro and knowledge around te reo Māori. Sounds simple right? Wrong. The bigger the group grew, the more we realised just how many words there were in a child’s world that played no part in our traditional world. Beyond the usual kupu like Lego and squeaky duck, which in the end were translated by a collective of members (poraka hono, rakiraki koekoe) there was also a whole new set of kupu that became apparent, and that was everything and anything to do with the online world – including Minecraft!
“The bigger the group grew, the more we realised just how many words there were in a child’s world that played no part in our traditional world.”
As more and more people became passionate about using more reo in their home, the need for more support and resources also increased. Basically anything that was cool in te ao Pākehā needed its own Māori version as well.
Enter Whetu Paitai of Wellington. Another reo Māori enthusiast, a pāpā, a Minecraft extraordinaire (2nd to his son Te Ariki. 7yrs) and a member of both He Tamariki Kōrero Māori and Hei Reo Whānau. Whetu enjoyed watching his son create masterpieces on Minecraft, he also liked doing them himself and eventually their whole whānau were hooked on the game. The difference, however, for this whānau was that they were committed to speaking only te reo Māori in their whare. And so the conflict arose – a whānau equally passionate about two things – te reo Māori and Minecraft which was all in te reo Pākehā.
Whetu decided at first to create his own Minecraft all in te reo Māori so that his tamariki could continue speaking their language while doing what they loved. He created a Māori world with avatars that welcome you in te reo Māori, a world with wharenui and kōwhaiwhai. After a while however, he saw the need to connect to others, and so he opened his Māori Minecraft world to other whānau who wished to engage – and so Mahimaina was born.
It was an exciting innovation. A place where tangata kōrero Māori could come together behind their awe māpara and engage in all things Minecraft while continuing to speak Māori. But we were still limited. The original Minecraft is a billion dollar programme, it is huge, with levels and challenges that stretch beyond anyone’s imagination – and with that comes new, never heard before, vocabulary. New to English and totally new to Māori. There were 8000 words exactly required to be translated in order to complete a proper Māori version of Minecraft. 8000 words! Words so complex that only a master of Minecraft would know the true meaning of the word.
Hei Reo Whānau teamed up with Mahimaina (Whetu Paitai) to try and sort through all these kupu hou. It was obvious that we needed professional help! We were fortunate to be one of the recipients of the 2016 CORE Māori Education Grants. Had we not received the grant, we would have probably attempted to translate the kupu ourselves and would most likely be at word 126 by now. Whetu, our tohunga Mahimaina, collaborated with Hēmi Kelly, a tohunga reo to complete the 8000 word list, and it was all thanks to the support from CORE Education.
Hei Reo Whānau prides itself on being a collaborative environment, where networks are formed and where kupu hou are born. Since having translations done, Mahimaina have commissioned professional Minecraft builders to create an even bigger and more immersive world, and developers to create teaching tools and a whole new GAMEMODE in Minecraft based around Hapū and Iwi group play. An artist has also been commissioned to create a custom resource pack, which will be used as a base to add more unique Māori designs to. The intention is to have this all ready by August to be presented at the Education in Games Conference. He aha kei tua i te awe māpara mō Mahimaina? He mea whakahirahira rawa!!
I should’ve stated how awesome collaborators Māori are, but then again all great innovators know the importance of having a great support network.
Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. Kāore e oti ngā mihi ki te rōpū tautoko i tēnei rauemi mīharo, ki a Whetu Paitai, ki ngā whānau e maha o Hei Reo Whānau, ki a Hēmi Kelly, otirā ki a CORE Education i tautoko ā-pūtea mai i te kaupapa.
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou tēnā rā tātou katoa.