Darryn Joseph, Senior Lecturer in Maori Language at Massey University, has written Whakarongo ki o Tupuna. Listen to your Ancestors. in memory of a teacher who greatly inspired him and became his dear friend and mentor. It has come out in time for Maori Language week.
In June 2016 he paid her a last visit. Sitting by her bedside in hospital he felt inspired to write her a poem before kissing her hand and saying goodbye. She passed away the next day.
He has now woven this poem into a story about how a beloved teacher guides her granddaughter and her pupils to walk in the path of their ancestors.
She teaches them that when they are stressed they will feel better if they look up to the swiftly passing clouds which cloak their ancestor, the Majestic Sky Father. She encourages them to be kind-hearted and to follow the generosity of the Bountiful Earth Mother. And how to let their troubles go and not bear grudges by throwing them to their ancestor The Mighty Blustering Wind.
But eventually she gets old and the roles are reversed. It is her granddaughter who guides and comforts her now:
“E pai ana, e kui e, e pai ana, kei pokaikaha. Ae, kua po mai. Tirohia te maramatanga o to taua tupuna, o Mahina.”
“Be strong, Nan, it’s ok -let’s not be scared.” she tells her. “As you said it’s our belief, we all return to the care of our ancestor, the Great Earth Mother.”
After the tangi it is a time for new beginnings. Her granddaughter is ready to follow in her footsteps and tells the other children not to be worried. She invites them to accompany her for a walk along the beach with their ancestor who guards the seashore.
I think this bilingual Picture Book would appeal to all ages. The heartfelt story has a gentle poetic rhythm. The colourful slightly stylised realistic illustrations by emerging artist Munro Te Whata help to bring the story to life.
Having a go at reading it together in Maori would make it a lovely way to celebrate Maori Language Week.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to pronounce every word perfectly. Maori is a beautiful language to get your tongue around. And as the English version is right underneath you will know exactly what the story is about and will no doubt pick up some Te Reo along the way,
It also makes you appreciate the close relationship Maori have traditionally had with the natural world, the earth, the sea and the sky and their respect for those have passed on this knowledge to the younger generation.
Whakarongo ki o Tipuna. Listen to your Ancestors is by Darryn Joseph illustrated by Munro Te Whata. Publisher Oratia Books. RRP $24.99
Reviews by Lyn Potter
Parent and grandparent, Avid traveler, writer & passionate home cook