Te Wiki o te Reo Māori a chance for 63yo te reo learner to celebrate his language journey

For 63-year-old Aucklander Malcolm Davis, Te Wiki o te Reo Māori is a time to celebrate just how far he's come. 

The kaumātua has been learning Māori for years, but a serious health issue has put all of his hard work in jeopardy. An unexpected side effect of gastric cancer has seen him struggle to learn and retain te reo. 

"Before I became ill, I could retain quite a bit of the learnings, but once I was going into treatment it was quite difficult. So my retention of those types of things was very short and it becomes frustrating, but you've got to keep at it," Davis told The Hui. 

He said cancer put him in a dark place where he thought his time was up, but he did karakia while lying in his hospital bed.

"I could see my tīpuna coming to me, my mum and her brothers and sisters and they said they were not ready for me, I had to continue."

Malcolm Davis.
Malcolm Davis. Photo credit: The Hui

Like 31,000 other New Zealanders a year, Davis regularly attends Māori language classes. It was a language he didn't grow up with.

"My mother in her final years started conversing in te reo. I just wish she had done it earlier, maybe I would have got a better grasp of it," he said.

Now Davis is a star student. While he still struggles with memory, he uses a walking stick that was owned by his koro to help him when he speaks te reo. 

"I just want to just keep going as much as I can because there's always new learnings out there," he said. 

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and the Public Interest Journalism Fund.