He Tātai Whetū ki te Rangi Mau Tonu, Mau Tonu He Tātai Tangata ki te Whenua Ngaro Noa, Ngaro Noa
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Since the first sailing vessels anchored on the shores of Aotearoa/New Zealand, the face of Māori culture has irrevocably changed due to the impact of Western influences, including new belief systems, technologies, education, political structures, and the introduction of the English language. This triggered the beginning of the erosion of the Māori language, and resulted in a severe loss of sophisticated language forms. Unexpectedly, some oral forms, such as mōteatea (laments) have stayed largely intact. As such, its continued survival provides some insight into the complexities of the language and how the composers of mōteatea viewed and interpreted the world they lived in. What is the explanatory power of mōteatea and how might mōteatea address the way people interpret and understand sophisticated language forms? Mōteatea continue to be a vital and authentic link to Māori identity, and to a language that provides integral knowledge for future generations. The language, as used in mōteatea, has been immortalised in historic manuscripts, newspapers and collections such as Ngā Mōteatea compiled by Āpirana Ngata, and in recent years seen and engaged in digital media. However, can these mediums bring those future generations to a sound understanding of the language as originally composed? This research will explore fundamental aspects of mōteatea and investigate how mōteatea might provide a basis for understanding the intricacies found within the Māori language. Specific mōteatea from the author’s tribes of Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa and Tūhoe, and their words will be analysed in relation to their usage, and their relevance in today’s environment. It will propose a framework that looks at how the language (as used in mōteatea) is analysed, interpreted and understood within traditional and modern composition, and whether the original meaning in reference to people, place and history is still understood. As such, preserving the sanctity and richness of the language. A key output of this research will be an original composition informed by the aforementioned framework.