"My culture is more than just a performance."
That is the key message 14-year-old Paretoroa Webster-Tarei will preach on the stage this week as a finalist in the 2019 Ngā Manu Kōrero national secondary school speech competition.
Paretoroa, a Year 10 student at Rotorua Boys' High School, is representing Te Arawa in the junior English section at the competition, which starts today and runs until Friday.
The annual competition falls within Te Wiki o te Reo Māori which this year has the theme of Kia Kaha te Reo Māori - Let's make the Māori language strong.
Te Wiki o te Reo Māori - or Māori Language Week - encourages people to improve their te reo Māori skills and use the language in their everyday lives.
This will be Paretoroa's second time competing in Ngā Manu Kōrero, having walked away with second place at last year's nationals.
He said he was proud to speak about his culture and often felt emotional when reading about and discussing issues like the Ihumātao protest.
"I chose to speak on the topic 'my culture is more than just a performance' because it stood out to me the most. People come here to see us perform but nobody really knows our history and the in-depth information about our culture.
"I am proud to be able to speak about my own culture and the struggles Māori have to go through, knowing some people do think our culture is just a performance."
Paretoroa said he was always nervous stepping on to the stage but practising by himself and in front of his class was helping him prepare.
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"All I can do is go on the stage and try my best. I go up there to represent my family, my iwi and myself.
"I enjoy watching other Māori students do their speeches as it helps me see what areas I've missed and what I could improve on."
But it's not just self-improvement that encourages Paretoroa to watch the other Ngā Manu Kōrero finalists deliver their speeches.
"To hear what others have to say is cool because it gives you another perspective and lets you see what other Māori consider to be the issues facing our people and culture."
Ngā Manu Kōrero is being held at The Regent on Broadway in Palmerston North. The contests are in four categories; Pei Te Hurinui Jones, Korimako, Te Rāwhiti Ihaka and Sir Turi Carroll.
Goals of Māori Language Week:
- Create a positive environment for the use of Māori language.
- Promote Māori language initiatives and events.
- Encourage non-Māori speaking New Zealanders to use te reo Māori.
- Encourage speakers of Māori to support others who are just starting out.
- Encourage community, business, government and media organisations to participate.
- Promote resources to make the Māori language more accessible.
- Contribute to awareness of the Crown Māori Language Strategy and the Māori and iwi strategy that work together for revitalisation.
Source: Te Wiki o te Reo Māori