James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Maori tuning in to identity on TV

Survey shows people more likely to watch Maori shows than explore whakapapa to engage with culture.

Nichola Haira says her marae remains the centre of her being Maori. Photo / Christine Cornege
Nichola Haira says her marae remains the centre of her being Maori. Photo / Christine Cornege

Maori are more likely to watch shows like Homai te Pakipaki or Te Karere than learn their whakapapa and family history to express their cultural identity, a survey shows.

The first survey on Maori wellbeing by Statistics New Zealand showed the most commonly reported modern cultural activity Maori adults engaged in was watching a Maori television programme.

Last year 396,500 people - or 75 per cent of those surveyed - said they had watched a Maori television show.

This was a greater number than those exploring their whakapapa or family history (60 per cent) or those taking part in Maori performing arts or crafts (56 per cent).

The survey showed that more Maori (44 per cent) were connecting using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter than meeting at traditional hui (39 per cent) or festivals such as Pa Wars or Waitangi Day celebrations.

IT services manager Nichola Haira of Hamilton, whose iwi are Ngati Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa, laughed when told Maori were more likely to express their cultural identity by watching certain TV shows.

Mrs Haira grew up on her two marae - Mokai, northwest of Taupo and Waitete in Rotorua - working in the kitchen for different hui.

While the 40-year-old mother of two young adult sons said she didn't know her pepeha (tribal saying) for either of her marae and out of a rating of 10 for te reo ability she gave herself "about a 2", she says her marae remains the centre of her being Maori.

"That's how I have always identified myself, knowing who my whanau are, the marae I am associated with and going back to it and being involved with the whanau."

She was surprised to hear about the social networking platforms being a more popular way of communicating for Maori than on the marae.

"I guess if our marae had wireless and they had the devices on, then we would have more people at the marae," she said.

The survey showed there had been an increase in the number of Maori adults who had some ability to speak te reo Maori - up from 42 per cent of those surveyed in 2001 to 55 per cent last year with a large increase in younger Maori with reo ability.

But it also revealed the proportion of Maori speaking completely or mostly in the language had decreased across all activities outside the home.

In the context of hui this number had halved from 22 per cent in 2001 to 11 per cent in 2013.

Last year 373,000 (70 per cent) of Maori aged 15 or older said it was important for them to be involved in their culture. Only 10 per cent said it was not at all important.

The survey gives an overall picture of the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of Maori in New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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