Monday 3 September, 2012
Waikato professor’s language excellence celebrated
The work of University of Waikato Professor Pou Temara was acknowledged at the national Te Waka Toi Awards in Wellington
on Saturday night. The awards celebrate excellence in Māori arts and Professor Temara (Ngāi Tūhoe) was recognised for
his mastery of language with Te Tohu Aroha mō Ngoi Kumeroa Pēwhairangi.
His extensive knowledge of whaikōrero (oratory), whakapapa (genealogy) and karakia (prayers and incantations) has made
him a cultural authority.
Professor Temara didn’t speak English until he was eight years old, growing up with his grandparents in the bush in the
heart of the Ureweras, in a punga hut with an earth floor. He went to boarding school in Auckland and says he could have
easily left his old world behind.
“But when I was 25 I had what you might call an epiphany and realised my destiny lay in the Māori world.” That led him
into academia, where he studied at Victoria University and continued his academic career there before coming to Waikato
Professor Temara was appointed to the Waitangi Tribunal in 2008 and chairs the Repatriation Advisory Panel to Te Papa.
He is Professor of Reo and Tikanga at the University of Waikato is one of three directors of Te Panekiretanga o te Reo
(the Institute of Excellence in Māori Language).
“I’ve been so busy with the Tribunal and the ‘water report’ that I haven’t had a lot of time to think about this
award,” says Professor Temara, “but it is an honour. I was thinking about a proverb from Wharehuia Milroy – ‘that
language contains the trophies of the past and the weapons for its future’.
“While still acknowledging the past, we have a responsibility as students of language and oratory to create new words
and thoughts, to keep the language relevant for today’s practitioners.”
The annual Te Waka Toi Awards are the only national Māori arts awards to celebrate all art forms. Established in 1986,
they recognise achievement in oratory, literature, music, performance, object and visual arts.
The supreme award went to Dr Timoti Kāretu QSO (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tūhoe) who has an honorary doctorate from the
University of Waikato.
Dr Karetu was the inaugural Māori Language Commissioner, is a director of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo and is Chair of Te
Kōhanga Reo National Trust. His award will be formally presented at his marae in October.