“El arte en lenguas originarias: música, poesía e ilustración”[1]

Makaira Waugh
Músico e ilustrador maorí (Nueva Zelanda)

Makaira Waugh

El 28 de octubre de 2020 se realizó el conversatorio virtual El arte en lenguas originarias: música, poesía e ilustración, en el que participó Makaira Waug. En su intervención, el profesor Waugh se refirió constantemente a categorías propias de la lengua y cultura maorí, como mihi, (agradecimiento, tributo), protocolo con lo que empezó su intervención rindiendo honor a los ancestros que siempre nos acompañan, el mana con el que nace una persona (autonomía, autoridad), que se relaciona con el manaakitanga (hospitalidad), wairua (espíritu de una persona), kaupapa (agencia, iniciativa), y como éstas sustentan su práctica e intervenciones educativas, sobre todo con niños.

Makaira Waugh destacó la importancia que en su país, Aotearoa/Nueva Zelanda, tienen las políticas de revitalización lingüística impulsadas desde las demandas y luchas del pueblo maorí, y que el Estado ha tenido que reconocer. Mismas que se manifiestan en la inmersión total en lengua maorí en las instituciones de educación a todos los niveles educativos, desde el preescolar hasta la universidad.

A continuación, se presenta la transcripción de la conversación del profesor Waugh:

Thank you very much. It’s a real honor to be part of this conversation. I was very lucky with making connection with José Antonio and this wonderful support that he gave me, to be able to connect with people in México, when I visited it in enero, this year. So I’m really grateful. I want to start with a little mihi[2], as we normally do as a Maori protocol: <<saludo en maorí>>. Just really wanting to acknowledge that it’s not just us here talking, but that we talk for our families, and tribes, and peoples. So, I wanted to acknowledge our ancestors, and your ancestors, and the people that you all come from, and also our listeners, who are also tuning in, so it was important to me to acknowledge them. I am a Maori teacher. I haven’t been teaching for long: I have been teaching for five years now, and I get to do my passion, which is to teach Arts, particularly music. I spent four years working in a Maori school, where I was teaching mostly music but also other Arts like drama, a little bit of dance and movement, and things like this. It’s a real privilege to do what I do. I love working with young people and children. It is one of my passions: it’s where my heart is. And yeah, I love it.

So, I met José when I was looking at coming to México to travel. I didn’t want to just come and visit, because I am passionate about my own heritage as a Maori person. But also I’m very interested in kind of the wellbeing of other indigenous peoples around the world. So, when I came, I wanted to share a bit of what I do with the hope that it might help in indigenous language revitalization: just to drop some ideas in the communities. So, I was very lucky by contacting the Embassy and, then, getting in touch with José. José put me in touch with his friends and colleagues and I was able to visit some communities in Oaxaca [San Pedro Ixcatlán, Tamazulapan]. So, I also did a little bit of work at the universities and at José’s work. It was a very much a privilege for me to meet some of the binni [Zapotec] communities and share a little of what I do. It was a wonderful experience. As we Maori people call it: manaakitanga[3]. This is hospitality and generosity with gests. I was looked after beautifully by José and his friends and the people that I visited (sic). It was a real joy.

[José Antonio Flores Farfán añade que se le acogió con mucho cariño y generosidad, y tuvo un acompañamiento constante, tanto de parte suya, como de las propias comunidades originarias que visitó, y que incluyen Tamazulapan. Estuvo en la sierra mixe, a través del CEDELIO [Centro de Estudios y Desarrollo de las Lenguas Indígenas de Oaxaca]. Ellos acogieron a Makaira y lo llevaron a Tamazulapan (mixe); lo llevaron a la triqui. Él trabajó con niños de preescolar, en la triqui, haciendo talleres de música, de motivación corporal, de conexión con la tierra, con los ancestros, con la espiritualidad, todo hablando maorí, sin que los niños tuvieran ningún problema.]

I will tell you a little bit about my Kaupapa, what I like–what I do, in terms of language and culture revitalization. I get to work as a teacher, specializing in the Arts within Maori education context. Everything that was gained has been fought for – long and hard – by my people, who changed from a model where Maori, our language, was banned in school and children would be strapped for speaking it. And so, we have a generation or even more where the language was lost, where parents and older people didn’t want to teach their kids our language, for fear that they would have the same thing happened to them, as in terms of punishments. So, we have our own colonial history and my people have worked and fought a lot to change things: to establish and regain our own self-determination and authority. Along the way we have made a lot of gains: we have Maori schools all throughout our country, where children are taught solely in our language. Well, some times there is a little bit of English. For example, in the one where I was teaching, English was taught when they were in High school. We have preschools, schools, secondary schools and University courses in our language. This is where my work is focused on: working with my people, in our language.

The focus of my work has a few core values. One of them is that the teaching is for our children to really enjoy and feel safe to be themselves. Not just receiving and being told what to do but, actually, to play, to be playful, because inside of all of us, as adults, we have what we call the ‘inner child’. We have this from when we were children, but children are in their space: they are being the child. They are focused on being and I try to make my work really fun, playful, joyful, and let myself be the child, in my work. So, with this letting children be children, it’s also willing to give them the mana[4], give them the authority and the power: the power, which comes within the listen and the learning. So, it’s the power to be themselves, but also, in terms of language and culture, it’s giving them ownership over their language and their culture. So, the way that I do that is through being a bit silly myself, and being playful, but also I like to let them have lots of opportunities for creative expression. I like to be playful with the language and a bit silly, because we can get into the space where we keep this precious tongue and all these precious treasures from our ancestors, that we want to protect. And that’s very important, but, when we are working with children – particularly – we need to do it in a way that gives them the power to be playful and enjoy and not feel like it’s so sacred that becomes heavy, you know? So, I like to make my teaching light, and give children ownership of it, give them the possibility of being playful with the language and enjoy and experiment with it, so that it is them that have the power and the joy in their own language and culture.

Yeah, so just to give you a bit of context: I am teaching only in our language. So we are using this cultural context in our speech all the time. But what you were saying is right. It is about power, empowerment and what our colleagues were saying before about owning the space; in our case it is about giving the children the space. Now, I want to show a video that demonstrates what happens when we give the children such space. They come up with the most beautiful things, because they are full of amazing talents and beauty. So, we can support them and give them a little bit of space and some tools in order to let them blossom and flower: to feel safe, to be able to experiment, and tear their own ideas.

<<Reproducción de video>> So, I just wanted to show you this video as an example of all what I’ve been saying. These kids made up that song. They were just playing on these instruments that I build for them, and making out their own music together. I hope you could see the joy and the spontaneity of what they were doing and the fun that comes out of it. For me, this work is not just about teaching music. It is also about the wairua[5], the children’s spirits, because, when you really get into that creative space, it’s not just about the material, but also about your spirit expressing itself: your wellbeing is nurtured, because your own wairua is nurtured.

Here it’s a small example of children transmitting their own ideas, through words and movement. Note that some of the movements are traditional motives for dance.

As Juan and Nicolás were saying before, to us, connecting to the environment and Nature is also important, as well as for indigenous peoples everywhere. We have what we call atua[6]. It’s actually hard to translate, but, more than a “God”, it is really more like the elements such as the forest, the plants, the winds, the weather, and all this kind of things, but personified. And we connect to those through the work that we do because these things are not just external: they are also inside of us. We have the breath of Tāwhiri-mātea[7], the breath of the wind in our lungs, as well as we have the salt water of the sea in our veins. So, it is important to be not just connecting to the Nature out there, but also owning it as a holistic person, who has these elements within as well: we are part of Nature, not a separate thing. So, this is another important aspect, and one of the ways that I connect children with them is through Nature itself. For example, by going to the beach, so they can connect with the deities of the ocean, and make music with the things we can find there, like shells. I have a song, a waiata[8], a canción that I do using those very things. <<canción en maorí>>

So, I think one of the important values is that you are not just teaching music language in a theoretical way, like you might do it in University. You are actually teaching it – hands on – and you are using the world of the child. You know children love experimenting and playing with things around them, and it’s much easier here, because we don’t have any snakes or anything [laughter]. So, it’s using all those things, and embodying their language, that you give them these rich experiences that connect the words with reality, rather than going through English – or Spanish – to get to it. So, you are actually doing it, thinking it, being it, and the Arts are about that: about being. They are not about just thinking about objects or things. They are about embodying their spirit, embodying what you are doing. If you are being dramatic – taking on a voice – you are not just saying the words. Instead, that wairua – the spirit of that person – is coming through you, and you are in its place.

What I really want for our children is not so much just for them to grow up and do music and do these different arts. I mean, I want them to do that, but it’s not about doing it professionally. It’s not even just about those things. The most thing I want is for them to experience that being, that expression of spirits, and to grow strong in themselves: to be confident. To be able to connect with their own wairua, their own spirit, listen to those little, tiny ideas, those voices that we have inside us, and have the courage to listen, because they often feel very vulnerable, and small, and not important. But it is when we take this small ideas and, actually, say: “Yeah, I’m going to do something about that”, and then have the courage to do it, and keep on moving through the creative process and all the challenges that come at us inside ourselves, and our fears, and all those things. I want them to be able to take that, and have the courage and constancy to get through it. I want them to realize their own dreams. A lot of the things that I have done, like making all this musical instruments for the school I was at, going to México and teaching while making my people’s own traditional rafts, and voyaging down the river, has come from inside me, choosing to listen to those ideas, and having the courage to support myself and saying: “I can do it”. Like you guys were saying [Juan and Nicolás] about creating. You are leading the way, because you have said: “This is not happening. I’m going to put us in that space”. You are taking the leadership, and that leadership comes from within ourselves first. We must have the courage to back ourselves. So, what I wanted was our kids to have the courage to follow their dreams and create new realities with the beautiful, unique, gifts that live in their hearts.

Agradezco a Cale Johnston por su ayuda con la traducción en español, y a Rob Amery y Jack Buckskin por su información sobre el programa de renacimiento del idioma Kaurna.

El video del conversatorio se puede ver en: https://www.facebook.com/263567113813663/videos/1727162250764316

  1. Traducción de Aarón Hernán Flores Suárez

  2. https://maoridictionary.co.nz/search?idiom=&phrase=&proverb=&loan=&histLoanWords=&keywords=mihi.

  3. https://maoridictionary.co.nz/search?idiom=&phrase=&proverb=&loan=&histLoanWords=&keywords=manaakitanga.

  4. https://maoridictionary.co.nz/search?idiom=&phrase=&proverb=&loan=&histLoanWords=&keywords=mana.

  5. https://maoridictionary.co.nz/search?idiom=&phrase=&proverb=&loan=&histLoanWords=&keywords=wairua.

  6. https://maoridictionary.co.nz/search?idiom=&phrase=&proverb=&loan=&histLoanWords=&keywords=atua.

  7. https://maoridictionary.co.nz/search?idiom=&phrase=&proverb=&loan=&histLoanWords=&keywords=T%C4%81whiri-m%C4%81tea.

  8. https://maoridictionary.co.nz/search?idiom=&phrase=&proverb=&loan=&histLoanWords=&keywords=waiata.