Acknowledging Māori Language Week

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To acknowledge Māori Language Week, Ben Parore, lululemon Ambassador and proud Māori man, shares with us the significance of the Māori language and culture to him and encourages us to explore our own identity and ancestry.

Ko Tokatoka Te Maunga

Ko Wairoa Te Awa

Ko Kaipara Te Moana

Ko Māhuhu Ki Te Rangi Te Waka

Ko Te Houhanga a Rongo Te marae

Ko Ngāti Whātua Te iwi

Ko Ben Parore ahau 

"Pepeha is a way of introducing yourself in Māori. It tells people who you are by sharing your connections with the people and places that are important to you. It connects people to your Whakapapa tūpuna (ancestors), whānau (family), whenua (land), iwi (tribe) and marae (meeting grounds)."

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And above is where my story begins. I am Ben Parore.

I whakapapa back to Te Houhanga a Rongo marae (meeting grounds), located on the northern outskirts of Takiwira – Dargaville, 161km North of Tāmaki (Auckland).

I belong to the hapū (sub-tribe) of Te Kuihi and Te Whānau. I am a Parore of the iwi Te Roroa o Ngāti Whātua. Significant ancestors of Te Houhanga a Rongo marae are Tirarau, Parore Te Awha and Waata Te Ahu. The wharenui (communal house that is the focal point of the marae) is called Rahiri and was built in 1914.

I was born and raised in Te Raki Paewhenua (North Shore, Auckland City). Being raised in a metropolitan city meant that I grew up exposed to a diverse society. I was born with a sense of pride that my identity was Māori, but I always felt like I was missing a piece, by not knowing the language. I ended up taking part in Kapa Haka (cultural group) and then enrolling in a Bilingual Māori class in middle school and both moves played their parts in leading me to where I am today.

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Last year, I took multiple steps to reclaiming my language, Te Reo Māori. The first step I took was enrolling in a full immersion Te Ataarangi Course at Te Herenga Waka o Orewa. Learning had and still has its challenges, especially when we are immersed in a predominantly English-speaking society.

However, I treat every day as an opportunity to learn, inspired by this quote: "Kaua e whakamā ki te kōrero Māori, ahakoa he iti, he taonga” which translates to “Don't be shy to speak Māori, no matter how little, treasure it.”

The second step was opening my business called rā hauora. My business embodies hauora (health and wellbeing), Mātauranga Māori (cultural practices) and tikanga (cultural principles) to cultivate and nurture physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing while upholding Māori knowledge and values. rā hauora is how I help others connect to themselves and their culture and is a safe space that allows whānau to grow and keeps whānau motivated to achieve anything they truly desire.

I feel that I live in a generation of change and I am proud to live alongside other passionate Māori Kaiwhakaohooho (motivators and inspirational leaders).

Together, we do our absolute best for the next generation, knowing that our tūpuna would be so proud of us. I’m a proud Māori, understanding that I represent and carry my whānau, my tūpuna and our culture in everything I do. This gives me immense pride and purpose. I take that feeling with me every day, with continuous steps to improve not only my own understanding of Te Reo māori but also my understanding of Mātauranga Māori. This knowledge keeps me grounded and continues to uplift my wairua (spirit).

Be proud of who you are, where you come from and your uniqueness. We all whakapapa, which is defined as ‘to lay one thing upon another’. We’re all linked to our ancestors, our ancestral land, our waterways and our tribal (and sub-tribal) groups.

“Ko au ko te taiao, ko te taiao ko au” – “I am the environment and the environment is me”.

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As we live in the present, we continue to build layer upon layer, on the past and towards the future, and so I encourage you to connect to the beauty that your whānau and you represent. Here are some steps you could take to do so:

• Have a conversation with your parents and/or grandparents about your ancestry
• Revive a cultural practice or tradition that you may have grown up with your own whānau
• Enrol in a language class to reconnect to your ethnicity
• Read a book or listen to a podcast delivered in your first language or your parent tongue

Arohanui

Ben Parore.

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