Marae visit high­lights chal­lenges deaf face

The Southland Times - - News - Dave Ni­coll

A visit by a group of South­land stu­dents to a marae has high­lighted the chal­lenges faced by deaf Ma¯ ori who want to con­nect with their cul­ture.

About 30 stu­dents with hear­ing loss from through­out South­land vis­ited Te To­mairangi Marae in In­ver­cargill on Tues­day to spend a day learn­ing about tikanga Ma¯ori (Ma¯ori cul­tural prac­tices).

van Asch Deaf Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre In­ver­cargill re­source teacher team leader Jill Meikle said the day at the marae was about giv­ing the stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to con­nect with Ma¯ ori cul­ture.

Some of the stu­dents who vis­ited the marae were pro­foundly deaf and oth­ers were to­tally re­liant on New Zealand Sign Lan­guage. Deaf peo­ple had their own cul­ture and strongly iden­ti­fied them­selves as part of the deaf com­mu­nity, Meikle said.

For deaf peo­ple who iden­ti­fied as Ma¯ ori, there was a real chal­lenge to con­nect with their own cul­ture, she said.

There was an in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion of deaf stu­dents and a need for those who iden­ti­fied as Ma¯ ori to un­der­stand who they were within both cul­tures.

What the stu­dents were be­ing told at the In­ver­cargill marae had been trans­lated from Te Reo to English, then into sign lan­guage by an in­ter­preter and some of the con­text gets lost in trans­la­tion, Meikel said.

van Asch Deaf Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre maori cul­tural ad­viser Kaitakawaenga Jil­lian Scam­mell said the biggest chal­lenge deaf Ma¯ ori faced was get­ting ac­cess to cul­tural knowl­edge.

They could not hear and un­der­stand the deeper nu­ances of what their cul­ture means, which they needed to de­velop their own self iden­tity, Scam­mell said.

Sign lan­guage could not con­vey some of the con­cepts of the Ma¯ori lan­guage and there was work be­ing done to de­velop Te Reo sign lan­guage. Those who iden­ti­fied as both Ma¯ ori and deaf found them­selves torn be­tween two com­mu­ni­ties, she said.

Less than a hand­ful of peo­ple in New Zealand could com­mu­ni­cate in Te Reo, English and sign lan­guage.

This week was Ma¯ori Lan­guage Week, which has been cel­e­brated since 1975.

KAVINDA HERATH/STUFF

Hard of hear­ing stu­dent Blake Curry, 6, and van Asch Deaf Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre re­source teacher Cathryn Mei­jer say ‘‘I love you’’ in sign lan­guage.

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