Sunday, July 14, 2024

World-first Māori language festival for Heretaunga

Heretaunga Hastings is set to host a world-first Māori language and culture festival, Toitū Te Reo, in August.

Based on the Welsh Eisteddfod festival, Toitū Te Reo is an opportunity for both fluent te reo speakers and people just beginning their te reo journey to gather with other speakers and ‘karawhiua’ – have-a-go.

Toitū Te Reo is a partnership between Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc, Hastings District Council and Te Matau-a-Māui-based language company Kauwaka, and has the support of Kīngi Tūheitia Pōtatau Te Wherowhero VII and iwi chairs from the top of the North to the bottom of the South Island.

Organisers say the uplifting celebration of all things Māori will offer a chance to taste Māori food, experience Māori culture, and to feel our national identity in a unique, welcoming environment.

Tickets go on sale on Friday, June 14 for the Toitū Te Reo symposium, which includes discussion panels of te reo experts, keynote speakers, spaces for fluent speakers to upskill, and spaces for people just starting to learn.

The Toitū Te Reo festival also features free events including wānanga, a rangatahi poetry slam, food stalls, information stalls, a kohanga reo space, a parent’s retreat, art trail, live demos, retail and street concerts. A festival highlight will be a ticketed all-star variety show with bi-lingual stand-up comedy, musicians and kapa haka.

Toitū Te Reo is a long-held aspiration of internationally-respected language champion and Hawke’s Bay resident, Dr Sir Tīmoti Kāretu (pictured).

“Toitū Te Reo is a celebration that recognises the status of the Māori language as an official language, but also unites all New Zealanders in recognising and honouring our nation’s first language. It is an opportunity for everyone to come together, learn, and embrace the cultural heritage that defines us,” Sir Tīmoti said.

Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi chair, Bayden Barber said iwi from across the country had committed to sending delegations to participate in the symposium and more than 5000 people were expected to attend Toitū Te Reo.

“Over the years, Ngāti Kahungunu has been a leader in revitalising te reo and, we’re doing our bit to unite Māori and other supporters behind our language. We know of large delegations coming from the Waikato and Tairāwhiti – we’re excited about the momentum this will bring to language revitalisation,” Mr Barber said.

Hastings Mayor, Sandra Hazlehurst said that if the inaugural festival attracted the support predicted, Toitū Te Reo had the potential to be a regular fixture on the region’s event calendar.

“Toitū Te Reo Te will contribute to Te Mātau a Māui-Hawke’s Bay’s already rich event reputation and bring more visitors to our region, boosting our tourism economy.”

“It’s a chance for all New Zealanders and all the vibrant cultures represented in Heretaunga to come together to live and breathe our national identity,” Mrs Hazlehurst said.

Tickets for the event can be purchased at

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