Comedian Janaye Henry's hilarious video of Māori Language Week organiser addresses deeper issues

Janaye Henry discusses issues she has with Māori language week through two characters.
Janaye Henry discusses issues she has with Māori language week through two characters.

A video by comedian Janaye Henry that's being shared widely online pokes fun at te reo Māori only being celebrated and encouraged for one week of the year, despite being an official language of Aotearoa.

In the short clip shared to Instagram and Facebook, she plays two characters - an enthusiastic yet restrained woman in pink putting forward ideas about Māori Language Week and a colleague perplexed at her suggestions. 

The 23-year-old hopes the video will create discussion around the positive and negative aspects of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori as part of a comedy series she's producing over four weeks. 

"To have a week is incredible, but now we can look around at the climate we're currently in and I think we are ready to take bigger steps, to commit more wholly to te reo," Henry told Newshub.  

"It's so rich and it's so beautiful and the values are so important. I look around at where we are now and I think honestly, it would benefit everyone to know more about te reo Māori."

She said she is really grateful and thankful the week exists, but does wish it was longer. 

"I know that sometimes the week can spark people's decision to start learning it more." 

When putting the video together, Henry said it was important to ride a line between being funny without being offensive. 

"I think my biggest worry is that I didn't want to undermine all the hard work that has been and is continuing to be done by so many Māori before me. I'm pretty fresh to this discussion so I didn't want the video to seem like I'm not grateful for the work that is being done, because I am." 

She intentionally kept the identity of the woman holding a 'colonisation for beginners' manual ambiguous, not  assigning her a specific job title or ethnicity. 

"It's just a character in a pink dress but if that does bring flashbacks... then that's totally valid."

Henry said it's confusing that the relevance of te reo Māori is debated, even during the week it is recognised. 

"I just think that during this week where we celebrate te reo Māori, and of course it is important to have these big discussions, but it's a bit tiresome to be honest and a bit overdone," she said. 

"We don't need to hear the other side of it all the time because we live on the other side of it, we do live in a world where te reo Māori isn't compulsory in schools so we don't need to hear someone's perspective of that because we're living in it.

"I think any learning is good learning, but I just think that if we committed to doing that for longer it would be more beneficial for everyone."

Henry said anyone looking to make a move toward supporting te reo Māori should check out Māori Phrase a Day with Hemi Kelly: Kei te hiakai koe and Māori Made Easy by Scotty Morrison.

But people should also simply regularly use any Māori expressions they know. 

"There's never a point where you decide that you know enough to start speaking. You just have to start."