Joe Harawira  [ New Zealand ]

Biography

Joe Harawira Portrait
© Ali Ghandtschi

Guest 2012.

Joe Harawira is an International storyteller and tikanga (protocols) expert from Aotearoa/New Zealand of Maori descent. His tribal affiliations are Ngati Maniapoto, Ngai te Rangi and Ngati Awa. He was born 1956 in a small town in the North Island called Whakatane. This was where he did his early schooling and at the age of 14, Joe was sent to a Maori Boarding School called St~Stephens. In 1975, he enrolled at Hamilton Teachers College to train to be a teacher. Here he did cross credit studies at the University of Waikato in the Maori Language. His secondary schooling at St Stephens and the learning of the maori language were to have a profound influence on him in carrying on the oral tradition of the telling of stories in his teaching career. Joe was in education for 24 years mainly in the total immersion language schools where the subjects were taught in the Maori language. He used storytelling as an educational tool to promote the various school curriculum subjects. His stories are well known stories from the Maori world.

Joe Harawira has toured many times both nationally and internationally over the past 30 years, taking his skill in Maori storytelling and oratory with him to indigenous storytelling festivals in the USA, including Hawaii, Canada, Australia and Europe. Storytelling runs in his extended family: »We come from a very oral tradition. As a young boy I’d go to the marae (open area in front of the wharenui where formal welcomes to visitors takes place and issues are debated) to listen to the kaumatua (elders), tell their stories through whaikorero (speech-making).« He is an exponent of the Maori language and a strong supporter of all Maori art forms. He is also is a bearer of tā moko.(full body and face tattoo). This in itself has been a story and a journey of discovery. Maori have a strong oral tradition and the storyteller was the repository of the tribal stories from their particular region: »I do not believe that the Western concept of Myth fits the paradigm of Maori ways of knowing, doing and understanding. I prefer to call those types of stories referred to as Myths as truths. The stories told are stories that have been handed down through the oral tradition by our forefathers and can be categorised under the following: Pūrākau (stories within which are contained the Māori worlds deepest and most important perspectives on the nature of the world and human condition), Pakiwaitara (stories of a lighter nature, can be humorous), Kōrero Parau (fables/stories with a moral), Pakimaero (fictional tales that contain models of perspective and consequence), Kōrero ahiahi (fireside stories) and Kōrero tara (fictional). In conclusion, the oral tradition gives the teller of the tale a certain amount of authenticity that is immediate with the crowd. Telling makes the story jump off the page and into the minds and hearts of the listener. Such is the power of the oral tradition of storytelling.«

© internationales literaturfestival berlin

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