He Maori He Turi: Maori and Deaf - A Journey of Rediscovery

Imagine you are at the tangi of a loved one. The kuia calls you on; the old men address the visitors; and all around you, the people grieve and cry. Now imagine you see all that is going on – but you cannot hear.

This is how it feels to be one of New Zealand’s 110,000 Maori deaf, born into a culture that is oral and aural at its core.

HE MAORI HE TURI is a one-hour documentary that looks at the experiences of this little-known section of our society, screening on Maori Television on Wednesday June 17 at 8.30 PM.

The programme follows social worker Patrick Thompson and solo mother Joanne Klaver, both profoundly deaf, and both attempting to connect with a Maori culture they were denied growing up. Thompson says he never fulfilled his father’s dream that he would grown up speaking te reo on the paepae. Klaver, a mother of two young boys, also provides a contemporary insight into the issue, for while one of her sons is hearing, the other is deaf and boards at Kelston’s Totara Village.

In the 1960s, it was compulsory for deaf children in New Zealand to be sent to a deaf school from as young as four, away from the whanau, hapu and iwi ties they might have had. At that same period, a rubella epidemic savaged Maori communities, leading to deafness in a large number of children.  By the 1970s, Maori made up over 80 per cent of the student population at Kelston School for the Deaf.

“HE MAORI HE TURI is about providing a voice for Maori deaf, to grow understanding about the challenges they face, and to promote the importance of sign language,” says producer Erana Keelan. “This programme will challenge every Maori to think about how we embrace and support those of us who are deaf or hearing impaired.”

The director, Tania Simon, is one of this country’s two tri-lingual sign language interpreters.

At times heart-wrenching and raw, HE MAORI HE TURI provides an insider’s view into a unique sub-culture, and the challenges they face.  It screens on Maori Television on Wednesday June 17 at 8.30 PM.

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