Breaking new ground in language revitalisation

Our latest project, a digital resource for deaf Māori students, was launched by Education Minister Hekia Parata at the start of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori.

“The Story of Rūaumoko is the first-ever digital book for deaf Māori students. It tells the story of Rūaumoko, the god of earthquakes and volcanoes, narrated by students from Kelston Deaf Education Centre in te reo Māori, New Zealand Sign Language and English” said Education Minister Hekia Parata.

Produced as an educational resource, Rūaumoko – The Rumbling Voice was built over an intensive 5 day workshop held in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, Kelston Deaf Education Centre, and CORE Education Ltd.

The app interprets the world of a deaf Māori student through art, storytelling, and mobile technology.

The story follows the whakapapa of Rūaumoko and the battle of his brothers where he sent earthquakes to signal his feelings about the separation of his parents. The narrator explains the connection with the deaf community and their identification with the way Rūaumoko sends vibrations through the ground to gain the attention of others, similar to the way they need to.

The story familarises the deaf students with their whakapapa and gives them the sense they are associated with one of Ngā Atua Māori, demonstrating they are powerful and valued.

The guiding principle was the students’ needs. Stephanie Awheto, of Ngāti Ruanui/Taranaki descent, the senior NZSL English-Māori interpreter in New Zealand, was engaged to help interpret the language and interests of the deaf students involved.

Ms Awheto, who is active in supporting Māori Deaf development activities and in mentoring trilingual Māori interpreters, said today, “Rūaumoko is a story told by deaf students through their eyes, how they made sense of it. This is an amazing resource.“

The app breaks new ground in language revitalisation, interpreting the world of a deaf Māori student through art, storytelling, and mobile technology.

We see in the students’ reaction how the app validates the importance of Te Reo Māori in their lives and for all New Zealanders. This shift in societal values is now recognised as the key factor in language revitalisation.