An epic quest for a hundred books

Pānia Papa has dedicated her life to revitalizing the language. In an effort to translate 100 popular book titles into te reo Māori, Kotahi CEO Rau Pukapuka – and formerly Silver Fern – is working to make sure reo speakers have high-quality literature at their fingertips.

A new generation of te reo advocates is on the rise, weaving new threads, ideas and flavors into the multidimensional fabric to revitalize te reo. Earlier this month, Ngāti Rānaki me Te Ranga Tipua, a remake of the Marvel Comic Avengers vs X-Men by guru and translator Te Korou Whangataua, became the latest addition to a growing body of te reo literature. Launched on Facebook live and presented with epic Marvel-inspired karakia by Paraone Gloyne. It is part of a broader strategy under Kotahi Rau Pukapuka which aims to translate 100 books into te reo and fill a gap in the publication of Aotearoa’s book.

The Kotahi Rau Pukapuka Charitable Trust was launched in 2019, with Pānia Papa (Ngāti Korokī-Kahukura, Ngāti Mahuta) weaving together the mantle of Māori literature in her role as CEO.

“Our main goal is to increase the amount of material that enthusiasts consume to read it. Moreover, for those who have the desire to unleash their imagination within these creative texts, within these novels, and the many forms of written language available in them.”


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With six publications to date, including Te Ruānuku (a te reo rendition of author Hemi Kelly from Paulo Coelho’s classic The Alchemist), Papa is confident that these books will find their place within Maori homes.

This ambition has become a reality, with the Ministry of Education procuring 26,000 copies of Hare Pota me te Whatu Manapou, Leon Blake’s translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. 13,000 additional copies of Nōu te Ao, e Hika e! – Dr. Seuss, Places to Go – by linguist and lecturer Dr. Karina Kelly, has also been purchased and distributed to Kura Kaupaba Maori, Kura Aa Iwi and Rimaki Ryo across the country.

“My hypothesis is that this move by the ministry will raise the status of these books to the level of Maori books that already exist in the world. Will children read them? Who know. It’s hard to look for this, but at least the ministry is sending this book to the schools and homes where our children are. Baba says.

Maori narratives are few and far between, and we are at a point where demand is greater than supply. There is a thriving group of kura kaupapa Māori and ware wananga graduates, as well as second language learners, whose interests in te reo should be stimulated by a body of high-quality literature.

Baba says that this group can be engaged by promoting “the stock of uncommon knowledge in these books and the quality of te reo – the language of the distant past, of our ancestors, articulated through many different themes”.

For te reo speakers who wish to develop their understanding and mastery of the language, Papa refers to these publications, stating that the level of excellence demonstrated by today’s reo idols can be found among the pages of these books.

“If they want to speak like Te Korou Whangataua, like Mataia Keepa and Leon Blake, the direct way to the high-quality te reo they have is by reading what they wrote in their translations.”

She acknowledges that setting the goal of 100 books is ambitious, but makes clear that it is unreasonable ambition that is required for te reo to survive.

“It’s a formidable goal, perhaps no different from most goals related to renewing this language. It’s a distant goal, and it must be, for it to succeed,” says Baba.

Painting from The Battle of Ngāti Rānaki and Te Ranga-Tipua / Avengers vs X-Men (Photo: Marvel / Auckland University Press)

The first post, the first is the word! By Tā Tīmoti Kāretu, it is a compilation of the Wayata and the Hakka complemented by his precious interpretation and knowledge of their meanings. The Kotahi Rau Pukapuka Charitable Trust’s patron, Witi Ihimaera’s award-winning book, Bulibasha, was translated by Te Tairāwhiti language hero Ruth Smith and given the name Puripāha-Te Pane Kaewa.

Through this variety of books, novels and nonfiction, Baba says the extent of language is covered.

Timothy [book] It is real, not an imagined subject. This is its kind. Hare Puta is the epitome of fantasy, which has its own kind. This Marvel comic book has conversational and interactive dialogue, has argumentative and combative language, as well as slang and spoken word,” explains Papa.

She adds, “Whitey’s novel has fairy tales and contains the language used by sheep-shearing gangs. So there are no limits to the language patterns the authors wrote, which we translate.”

How books are selected depends on timing and relationships. Some are requested by the authors themselves, others are suggested by those enthusiastic about te reo, others by publishers, while some have been provided by charity trustees Kotahi Rau Pukapuka.

“In terms of titles, we don’t focus on young children’s books, because there are already quite a few books being written, so we’re targeting kids 12 and up,” Baba says.

The stories will be turned into audiobooks. This is where the strategy begins in terms of truly reviving the language, says Baba.

“For me, this is the game-changing factor in this business. That is why I urge my friends to turn the books we publish into albums, so that the essence of the spoken language goes back to reading and reading, that is, that is the old saying of old people, reading books, not reading.” This is very much in line with the books.”

“For me, audiobooks are the game-changer. That is why I eagerly encourage my colleagues to convert the books we translate into audiobooks, to allow the essence of the spoken word to be reinvigorated.”

Having written text accompanied by audio is a useful tool when learning te reo, especially for those who are not proficient readers.

“By listening and reading consistently, those passionate about te reo can improve those skills and gain awareness about their use,” Baba says.

Hare Pota was already voiced by Pānia Papa and actor Tiare Tāwera, and Ruānuku was completed by Hēmi Kelly. Purivaha and yours is the world, hikah ah! They will also be released as audiobooks next year – despite challenges with getting permissions from publishers, Ngāti Rānaki and Te Ranga Tipua will not receive the same treatment.

More than just capturing sound to accompany te reo translations, Papa says it’s about bringing the essence of language to life in all its subtleties and nuances.

The feeling of reading is very different from the feeling of the language being spoken. This is the real workplace. Therefore, if we are successful in our quest to produce a number of Maori audiobooks, there will be a greater number of verbal examples, of a high standard, transmitted within societies,” says Baba.

Next year, the goal is to publish eight additional books in te reo. Baba acknowledges that although it may take 20 years to reach a hundred books, each book contributes to the overarching goal, which is to recover Maori from Te Rio.

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