A group of 10 had a gentle introduction to Maori language at Whanganui's Mount St Joseph retreat centre on Monday, the first day of Maori Language Week.

The two-hour workshop was led by Kura and Kahurangi Simon, the wife and eldest son of the late Morvin Simon. He gave the first workshop on behalf of the Sisters of St Joseph three years ago.

Kahurangi Simon began with an introduction.

"I'm honoured and privileged to be here to share a little bit of Māori with you today," he said.


He acknowledged his own ancestors who had died, and those of participants in the workshop.

"We acknowledge our loved ones that have passed on, so that we never forget what they did in their lifetime. We farewell them, but they are always in our minds."

After his introduction his mother stood to sing a waiata tautoko, a song in support of a speaker.

Mr Simon went on to talk about whakapapa - the family tree or genealogy.

"It's through our genealogy that I know who I am. It's a special possession or gift, a prize, that we all hold."

He and his mother each gave their own pepeha, a short statement summing up their place in the world. It starts with the person's maunga (mountain) then awa (river), marae, whare (important house), parents and then, finally, the name of the person.

"It starts out wide and narrows down," Mr Simon said.

His marae was Kaiwhaiki, on the Whanganui River. His mother's was Ratana Pa.

Participants then put together their own pepeha, and spoke them. There were people from England and Ireland, as well as New Zealand.

"Wherever we go we take our mountains, our rivers, our ancestors.

"They go with us. Your pepeha is like your GPS setting. It's showing your place in the world," Mr Simon said.

Introductions over, waiata (song) and karakia (prayer) came next in the workshop.