Te reo Māori is Dr. Anaha Hiini’s life purpose.
Raised by his grandparents, Kepa and Maata Hiini, Anaha of Ngāti Tarāwhai, Tūhourangi, Ngāti Whakaue descent made a promise at the age of six to his late grandmother, Maata Hiini.
“I’ve always had a passion for Māori culture. My first inspiration was my Nan. I remember saying to her that I wanted to one day sound as beautiful as she did speaking te reo Māori.”
Anaha, who resides in Rotorua, holds a doctorate in te reo Māori and is a graduate of the now closed prestigious invitation-only school of excellence in te reo Māori, Te Panekiretanga o te reo Māori.
He was also selected by Sir Pou Temara to participate in a wānanga karakia for 12 proficient reo Māori speakers to learn the ancient ceremonial art of karakia (traditional Māori rituals).
Anaha is highly respected by his kin of Te Arawa and is often called on to help with ceremonial occasions in Rotorua and outside of the district.
He and his wife run Kōtihi Reo Consultants which provides day and night Māori language acquisition courses for groups of all ages, as well as cultural advisory, and translation services.
Kōtihi Reo is made up of a team of four, three kaiako (teachers) including Anaha, and the General Manager, Anaha’s wife, Grace Hiini.
“We’re pretty busy with our mahi. And we provide cultural advisory services including tikanga, kawa (traditional customs and practices) and wānanga (workshops). We also do translation work; English to Māori or Māori to English for agencies across the country.”
He’s humbled he was hand-picked by Pou Temara to train as a tohunga karakia (expert in Māori rituals).
“As Pou is the last of his generation, I’m honoured and privileged to have been one of 12 men selected to learn the art of karakia including ngā atua Māori (Māori Gods) and the various rituals to say for blessing a taonga, blessing a house or launching a waka.”
Anaha says he’s always been drawn to te reo Māori. He’s been encouraged by several matakite (Māori prophets) during his journey in advancing his knowledge of te reo.
“Over the past couple of years, I’ve realised that this is my purpose, to help revive the reo.”
His passion for te reo has driven his service to Te Arawa and iwi/ hapū across Aotearoa to ensure its survival.
In amongst a busy schedule, he is also an author and contributes reo Māori education segments on Radio Te Arawa and more recently, has joined two other reo enthusiasts to deliver a programme on RNZ where they translate topical written and audio content from te reo Pākehā to te reo Māori.
He encourages anyone who wants to learn te reo Māori to do a bit of homework first.
“Make sure to research your teacher. Make sure they know what they’re up to, and never stop learning. Because it’s like going to the gym, you have to keep on top of your game. Similarly to te reo, you have to keep working at it to retain it.”
It’s a lesson Anaha holds dear.
“I strive to be the best I possibly can be and to do that you have to keep on learning. Although I’m somewhat proficient in the te reo Māori, like those I teach, I still have much to learn. Kia mutu te ako kua mutu koe (When you stop learning, your life ends). So that tells me, he mutunga kore tō te mātauranga, ā, e kore rawa te ako e mutu kia mate rā anō te tangata (education is endless until death does learning cease). So, I learn every day and try to learn a new word, a new proverb, or grammatical rule because grammar is my passion.”
Anaha leaves us with a whakatauākī (proverb) he composed.
‘Tukuna te remu o te kahu whakaewarangi.’
‘Release the hem of the chiefly cloak.’
Nā Anaha Hiini
He explains what this whakatauākī means to him.
“Likened to a grandchild tugging away at his grandmother’s petticoat as he follows her around the marae. As he holds on and tugs away at that petticoat, he is actually learning aspects of his culture, the reo, tikanga, kawa, and more. Eventually, there comes a time when the grandchild must let go to stand on his own allowing him to be the teacher and teach all that he learnt from his grandmother to others who are now holding and tugging away at his coat for knowledge. The ‘kahu whakaewarangi’ is the teacher, and the person holding and tugging away at it is the student. One day, we all let go of our kaiako (teacher) to become the kaiako,” he says.
Dr Anaha Hiini completed his PhD in 2020. His thesis which is in te reo Māori is entitled Ngāti Whakaue Māngai Nui and explores the efforts by his iwi of Ngāti Whakaue to retain te reo and to ensure its survival. He explores how the words of their respected elder, the late Hamuera Mitchell, may have encouraged the tribe to ensure the language did not perish. In his thesis, he highlights that in 1992, Hamuera Mitchell said ‘Ka mate te reo o Ngāti Whakaue ā te tekau tau’ (In ten years, the reo of Ngāti Whakaue will perish).