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