Ma¯ori short story fi­nal­ist for award

Hamilton Metro News - - COMMUNITY - Lau­rilee McMichael

It’s hard to be­lieve Iraia Bai­ley hasn’t been speak­ing te reo Ma¯ori all his life.

He com­poses haka and wa­iata, teaches, has his own te reo ra­dio pro­gramme and has just been named a fi­nal­ist in a na­tional writ­ing com­pe­ti­tion for a story he wrote in te reo Ma¯ori.

So it’s some­what sur­pris­ing to hear that Iraia, 36, only be­gan learn­ing te reo Ma¯ori in his early 20s af­ter be­ing be­rated by a Na­tive Amer­i­can for not know­ing his mother tongue.

“I served on a Mor­mon mission away with the Navajo In­di­ans [in Ari­zona] for two years and their cul­ture was re­ally strong,” Iraia says. “One of the ladies did the old ‘you’re not a Ma¯ori, you don’t even speak your lan­guage’ and it cut me. I was 20 at the time and I was like ‘I’m go­ing to learn Ma¯ori and I’m go­ing to teach my kids so they will grow up know­ing it’.”

Iraia, who af­fil­i­ates to Nga¯ti

Tu¯ whare­toa and has worked and stud­ied in Hawaii and Hong Kong, moved to Tu­rangi six years ago with wife Miriama and his five chil­dren to bring them up in a ru­ral en­vi­ron­ment and re­con­nect with his fam­ily.

Iraia has a te reo Ma¯ori show on Tu¯ whare­toa FM, teaches te reo Ma¯ori for Tu¯whare­toa Ma¯ori Trust Board and at Ma¯ori-owned milk pro­ces­sor Mi­raka, and tu­tors kapa haka. He has worked in kapa haka and Poly­ne­sian dance per­for­mance and spent a year per­form­ing in Dis­ney’s The Lion King in Hong Kong.

Now his short story Ra¯ kei Me Te Ta­raute Nui (Ra¯ kei and the Big Trout) is a fi­nal­ist in the 2017 Pik­i­huia Awards for Ma¯ori Writ­ers, an an­nual writ­ing awards run by New Zealand book pub­lisher Huia.

Iraia’s en­try is one of only 24 fi­nal­ists se­lected from 130 en­tries cover­ing short sto­ries, film scripts and novel ex­tracts in English or te reo Ma¯ori.

It was when Iraia re­turned to Hawaii from the Ari­zona mission that he started try­ing to im­merse him­self in te reo Ma¯ori, lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio, watch­ing tele­vi­sion, read­ing books and look­ing up any words he didn’t know and speak­ing it to the kau­matua in Hawaii’s Ma¯ori com­mu­nity as of­ten as he could.

“The big­gest thing for me was just not be­ing afraid to test my­self out on peo­ple that were knowl­edge­able. I didn’t care if they laughed at me, I didn’t care if I was wrong, over and over un­til it be­comes nor­mal and also find­ing mul­ti­ple ways of learn­ing, not just re­ly­ing on a class.”

When Iraia and his fam­ily shifted back to New Zealand Iraia com­pleted a Ma¯ori im­mer­sion course which led to bach­e­lor’s and mas­ter’s de­grees and now a PhD in te reo, with both his 40,000-word Mas­ters the­sis and his 100,000-word PhD dis­ser­ta­tion writ­ten in te reo Ma¯ori.

Although he’s al­ways writ­ten sto­ries, the Pik­i­huia Awards is the first time Iraia’s en­tered a cre­ative writ­ing award and he com­posed the story with just a day to spare be­fore en­tries closed. De­spite not hav­ing done any cre­ative writ­ing in months, Ra¯ kei Me Te Ta­raute Nui came eas­ily. Iraia de­scribes it as “fly fish­ing from a Ma¯ori per­spec­tive”.

“I thought why not talk about fish­ing and fly fish­ing, and Ton­gariro is the fly fish­ing mecca so I thought why not? Ev­ery­one here fishes, es­pe­cially Nga¯ti Tu¯whare­toa, we all eat trout, we live on it and that type of thing will go right through the Bay of Plenty and all the Ma¯ori who live in those lakes district, we eat a lot of trout . . . we want to take it home and feed the fam­ily and have a kai.”

Judges Poia Rewi praised the te reo Ma¯ori short story en­tries say­ing the level of Ma¯ori lan­guage pro­fi­ciency was strik­ing and the ap­pli­ca­tion of di­alect, syn­onym and metaphor was also worth not­ing. Iraia says he made an ef­fort to in­cor­po­rate some of the Tu¯ whare­toa di­alect into his story and make it re­lat­able to the iwi.

“Hence why I made it about fish­ing for trout be­cause Nga¯ti

Tu¯ whare­toa and Tu­rangi is renowned for it and I thought I’m go­ing to do that and put in the lit­tle bit of the di­alec­tal things into it so that they [read­ers] can see it.”

He was both sur­prised and happy to find he was a fi­nal­ist and hopes the awards will open up a path­way to hav­ing more short sto­ries pub­lished.

“I’ve al­ways thought about it but never re­ally known about how to get into it, so when I saw that com­pe­ti­tion I thought why not give it a go and see what hap­pens. For me, it’s a lot eas­ier to write in Ma¯ori than in English.”

The awards night is on Septem­ber 9 in Welling­ton and Iraia jokes he’ll wear his waders and take his fish­ing rod. Ra¯ kei Me Te Ta­raute Nui will be in­cluded in the col­lec­tion Huia Short Sto­ries 12: Con­tem­po­rary Ma¯ ori Fic­tion, which will be launched at the awards night.


TE REO WRITER: Iraia Bai­ley of Tu­rangi is a fi­nal­ist in the 2017 Pik­i­huia Awards for Ma¯ ori Writ­ers for his short story Ra¯ kei Me Te Ta­raute Nui, writ­ten in te reo Ma¯ ori.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.