Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dame Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira

Dame Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira: a New Zealand Māori language proponent, storyteller, educator, intellectual, artist, writer, mother, a grass-roots organizer and visionary leader.

Dame Katerina Te Heikoko Mataira, born in Tokomaru Bay in 1932, trained as a teacher and art educator.

She had nine children with her husband, Junior Te Ratu Karepa Mataira. She also leaves behind 50 grandchildren and great grandchildren and one great great grandchild.

Kāterina credits her gift of storytelling to her parents, Raniera and Erana Harrison, who raised a large family in Ruatoria. Māori was their native tongue. ‘My father was a brilliant storyteller,’ Kāterina recalls. ‘Many of his stories were about his own life. They were full of real people and real events. There were scary ones too. He loved to tell ghost stories, then send one of us kids outside to fetch wood for the fire.’

I am featuring Dame Katerina because she basically single handedly saved te reo Maori (an Eastern Polynesian language spoken by the Māori people, the indigenous population of New Zealand.) from extinction.

This act of keeping a language is SO important as many of the world's languages are endangered.

in celebration of cursive handwriting,
in honor of Dame Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira

And one shutters to think of the ramifications of the loss of a language ... histories would be lost, cultures, nursery rhymes and folklore, just to name a few.  Language is the gateway into so much of life and Dame Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira knew that and fought to keep te reo Maori alive!!
Stephen Wainwright, Creative New Zealand Chief Executive, says “Dame Katerina was a leader in the renaissance of te reo Māori, through both her writing and the direction she provided as a founding member of Te Ataarangi. She has had a profound effect on New Zealand society as a writer and an artist and her legacy will live on for generations to come.”  Creative New Zealand

Here is the US there is another form of communication that is close to extinction, and that is cursive writing.  Teaching cursive is not in many elementary school's curriculums and I personally feel that not teaching cursive is a big mistake.  I believe that learning to write in cursive is beneficial in more ways than just being able to write in a formal manner.  I believe that learning cursive opens different pathways in the brain.   Also cursive is very useful in creating images and design.  So I say lets keep teaching cursive to our children so that they will be able to read original documents from their past, read correspondences between historical figures, do their own research from original sources.

When I think about the loss of some many world languages and the loss of children being able to read and write in cursive, I am eerily reminded of George Orwell's haunting, 1984, and the Party's Newspeak.
Newspeak is the language of Oceania, a fictional totalitarian state ruled by the Party, who created the language to meet the ideological requirements of English Socialism (Ingsoc). In George Orwell's world of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Newspeak is a controlled language, of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, a linguistic design meant to limit the freedom of thought—personal identity, self-expression, free will—that ideologically threatens the régime of Big Brother and the Party, who thus criminalised such concepts as thoughtcrime, contradictions of Ingsoc orthodoxy."

And let's just say that, lately there are way too many current events and political actions that remind me of this book, so I say that we must protect and teach all ways of communicating with each other so that we are not suddenly dependent on interpreters....

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