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From pig hunting to acclaimed professor, Matua Pou's destiny always lay in the Maori world

From pig hunting to acclaimed professor, Matua Pou’s destiny always lay in the Maori world

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(Waikato Times) Pou Temara went from a ponga hut in the bush, speaking no English, to a boarding school in Auckland, and is now a highly acclaimed professor after an epiphany brought him back to his roots.

The University of Waikato professor was recently acknowledged at the national Te Waka Toi Awards which celebrate excellence in Maori arts.

Prof Temara, who is Ngai Tuhoe, was presented with Te Tohu Aroha m? Ngoi Kumeroa P?whairangi, an annual award in honour of the late Ngoi Kumeroa Pewhairangi for “leadership and outstanding contribution to the promotion and strengthening of Te Reo Rangatira”.

His extensive knowledge of whaik?rero (oratory), whakapapa (genealogy) and karakia (prayers and incantations) has made him a cultural authority.

Prof Temara didn’t speak English until he was eight-years-old, growing up with his grandparents in the bush in the heart of the Urewera, in a ponga hut with an earth floor.

From there he went to boarding school in Auckland and says he could have easily left his old world behind.

But when I was 25 I had what you might call an epiphany and realised my destiny lay in the Maori world,” he said.

He is now professor of reo and tikanga at the University of Waikato and is one of three directors of the Institute of Excellence in Maori Language. He was appointed to the Waitangi Tribunal in 2008 and chairs the Repatriation Advisory Panel to Te Papa.

  • International expert on language revival, Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann, will be giving a free lecture on the importance of revitalising languages at the University of Waikato today.
  • “Sleeping Beauties Awake”, from noon to 1pm.

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