National | Māoriland Film Festival

Turanga Mahutonga teaching te reo through animation

Animation graduate Turanga Mahutonga grew up speaking te reo Māori and is using his qualification to teach it to other people.

The 19-year-old recently graduated from M.A.T.C.H, the Māoriland tech hub in Ōtaki and was awarded the 2021 M.A.T.C.H Award including $2500. The funding will go towards his project of four animated musical short films to help rangatahi engage with and learn te reo Māori.

“I was lucky again to grow up in te reo Māori and all aspects about it. There are also those who have blood of Māori but they don’t have te reo Māori themselves so I guess I just want to find a way to whakataerangahia te reo Māori ki te ao, to teach our tamariki, mokopuna so they also grow up in te reo Māori,” says Mahutonga of Te Arawa, Ngati Whakaue and Taranaki.

Mahutonga has been promoting te reo Māori with school friends from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ruamata for the last couple of years.

His new animation kaupapa was one of seven projects selected to receive funding for further development at the 2021 Māoriland Pitch last month. The Māoriland Pitch is an opportunity for Māori filmmakers to turn their brilliant idea into production-ready projects.

“I’m very lucky to win the award. It’s a lot of thanks to my teachers," Mahutonga says.

“They encourage me to take the competition.”

In his project he will include animations of instruments being played, kanikani (dance), lights, colours “and whatever the song is explaining,” he says.

“This generation of tamariki love to watch TV, love to watch animations and animated music videos are something they might love, something they can all dance to, sing along and learn at the same time.”

Mahutonga first came across courses at M.A.T.C.H when he was living in Rotorua.

“I came across it online and I guess it was about time for me to leave home. I saw it. I thought it was interesting because it was a course based in kaupapa Māori which has caught my interest and I decided to apply and I made it in," he says.

“What I love the most is that they’re trying to break us out of our comfort zone to get the best of us out, bring the best of us ourselves out.”

He says after he finished the project he hopes to continue doing animation for a company "and carry on expressing te reo Māori or te ao Māori through the world through animation.”