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Forecasting Reo: Proof that we’re still a colonial nation.

I was explaining to a friend from Narrm Melbourne about this yearly phenomenon. It still baffles me.

While it might be totally politically incorrect for me to say this, I’ve been addicted to TV One’s Breakfast show since Paul Henry was the host. My love of the Breakfast broadcaster has highlighted a growing concern. Every year during Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori language week) the weather report includes a consorted effort to incorporate more reo Māori. Simple things, like Auckland becomes Tāmaki Makaurau, Christchurch becomes Ōtautahi, and so on.

Unless you are completely geographically inept it makes little difference to the overall understanding of the weather. Really it’s a token gesture by TVNZ to embrace our countries 1st language, one week of the year. And yet every year during that same week I watch the complaints roll in.

“Why is the weather being read in Māori? We speak English here.”

And then I remember that I live in a country where bigotry is alive and well.

A couple Wednesdays ago I opened Facebook and was really disheartened that our other national television broadcaster TV3 had too been fielding complaints about Kanoa Lloyds use of reo Māori during her weather report.

TV3 is my evening news channel. No matter how much I cringe, disagree or disapprove with their coverage it is still the broadcaster I tune into every night at 6pm. I sit back and let Hillary Barry and Mike McRoberts take me into the evening. But, now I wonder, is my judgement that impaired? The intolerance and racism of the others sharing this channel forces me to question every decision I’ve ever made.

What is it with reo Māori and the weather? It’s like this marriage made in heaven where reporters can been shown to make an effort to acknowledge our other official language, broadcasters can tick a box and viewers can complain. A language that should in fact enjoy a binary relationship much like that of English and French in Canada, is a language that people sadly don’t associate with the contemporary identity of New Zealand. Outside the sphere of bi-cultural lip-service, it is confined to the Other of ‘indigeniety’.

The ironic thing is that when you (as a person of colour) talk about colonisation and it’s effects that are still evident today their (racist New Zealanders) eyes roll. Its as if it’s a redundant conversation topic, old, over used, boring. These complaints are proof that in fact the affects of institutional racism are alive and well.

Language means articulation, which means representation, which means power. If we are still using the terms and language of colonisation, we are no closer to a fair and equal world then we were 30 years ago. We’re just slightly better at hiding it. The idea of decolonising language means getting rid of these indicators of inequality, and instead of using words prescribed to us, using our own.

For New Zealand an acknowledgement of Māori place names during the weather is a minute step to decolonising the linguistics of our landscape. Tell me why are we so resistant to this marginal progression.

Lana Lopesi

1 Comment

  1. Devon says

    Hitting the nail on the head as per usual. Stunning and articulate writing, Lana!

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