“It's doing what it is supposed to do - create a conversation,” Tame says.
“Everyone who has stopped to talk to me has had a different response. anger, sadness, disbelief, humiliation... all of the feelings I had as a boy when I was told to write these words.”
The words, ‘I will not speak Māori’ are the lines Tame was forced to write out by his teachers, and drove his passion for reo to be widely spoken within Aotearoa. ‘I Will Not Speak Māori’ is Tame’s installation as part of Wellington’s week-long celebrations of 50 years of Māori language being widely used in Aotearoa - Te Hui Ahurei Reo Māori.
It tells the story of Tame’s journey, along with Ngā Tamatoa, from Tāmaki Makaurau to Te Whanganui-a-Tara, to help present the Māori language petition to Parliament in 1972, asking for active recognition of te reo Māori. The petition kick-started Māori Language Day that same year, then a few years later transpired into Māori Language Week.
Tame’s story helped shape Aotearoa’s history.
“It’s shocking to be reminded that this was once an attitude in Aotearoa,” says WellingtonNZ CEO John Allen.
“It’s great that people have reacted so strongly to this phrase. This demonstrates Aotearoa’s positive change in attitudes towards tangata whenua and te reo Māori.”
WellingtonNZ are the primary funders of the installation which is part of Te Hui Ahurei Reo Māori o Te Whanganui-a-Tara - The Māori Language Festival of Wellington.
“It was an easy decision to fund this because the korero behind it is of national significance and changed the course of our country. Furthermore, we believe it is important for the installation to be located in Wellington, as this is the place where the decision was made to celebrate te reo Māori instead of denigrating it.”
The installation will be open to the public from 1 September. For more information about the festival and the artwork, visit tereofest.nz.