Visitors to this weekend’s Womad festival in Taranaki will have the opportunity to brush up on their te reo and understanding of tikanga Māori, writes RNZ’s Taranaki correspondent Robin Martin.
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa has come onboard as a programme partner and will be offering a virtual pōwhiri experience and has helped develop a “Teach Me Te Reo” tab for the festival app.
The World of Music and Dance festival has a well established reputation for bringing together artists from around the globe in a celebration of the planet’s diverse cultures.
Te Paepae – a festival site hosted by Taranaki Māori – already showcases Māori arts and crafts such as raranga or weaving, Tā moko and Māori musical instruments.
Event director Emere Wano said the relationship with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa had brought fresh energy to that space.
“For example they’ve got the 360 degree virtual pōwhiri that people can experience, through goggles, 3-D goggles.
“So you can actually be part of a pōwhiri through the goggles. It’s like you are actually there. For people who’ve never been or experienced that’s really powerful.”
Ms Wano said another development at Te Paepae that she was excited about was the Cuppa with a Kaumātua initiative from the Taranaki health and social services provider Tui Ora.
“So during the day you can come in and have a chat or a kōrero with one of our elders and ask any questions you’ve always wanted to ask about Māori culture or Māori life or Māori in general and they’ll hopefully be able to answer you questions in a really accessible way.”
At night the Tui Ora space would morph into the Manaaki Lounge which will have a youth focus. Te Wānanga o Aotearoa spokesperson Vivienne Merito said the tertiary education provider was excited about the opportunity Womad presented for sharing New Zealand’s indigenous culture.
Ms Merito said as well as the virtual pōwhiri experience, Te Wānanga had fun developing the Teach Me Te Reo app which included useful phrases and greetings.
“We’ve even got mispronunciations on there like for Taranaki so it’s just a fun way to engage. It’s non-threatening and you can use it at the festival site or take it home and use it with your whanau.”
At a Womad pop-up gig in New Plymouth festivalgoers were right behind the new initiatives.
Aucklander Sid thought they were great ideas. “It’s really really important for New Zealand society and the unique culture we have here so I’m really looking forward to learning more.”
French visitor Pierre-Yves Morgnant planned to drop by Te Paepae. “When you travel you want to discover the landscape but also the culture of the country so yeah I would be interested.”
At an artists’ barbecue, the visiting musicians were also looking forward to learning more about Māori culture. Kwame Yeboah of Ghanese group the Kwashi Bu Area Band was looking forward to artist’s pōwhiri which he had heard was a powerful experience.
“They mention the whole opening and how culturally it’s amazing and different so I want to see how it all comes together.
“I’m looking forward to it but I don’t want to think about anything I just want to go there open-minded and embrace what they’ve got to show us, got to give us. I’m just looking forward to it.”
Womad kicks off tonight at Brooklands Park and runs through to Sunday evening. It’s expected to be a near sellout.
This article was first published on RNZ.