RINGIHIA I TE KETE: The language of the Stars


Soon after separating Ranginui and Papatūānuku, Tāne travelled into the heavens with the various celestial bodies, to suspend them in the sky bringing light unto the world. Within the basket ‘Te Mangoroa’ Tāne carried the stars, from which he drew forth the brightest and placed them against the chest of Ranginui. So enthralled was Tāne at what he had achieved that he accidently knocked the basket over scattering the remaining stars across the cosmos. As the stars spilled from the basket they clattered against one and other creating a ringing sound that resonated throughout the universe. This event is captured in a line of a karakia that states “Ringihia i te ketenui a Tāne” which can be described as the language of the stars.

This research is based on 2 key aspects: (i) Māori astronomy, and (ii) te reo Māori. In particular, the aim of this study is concerned with understanding how Māori astronomy is embedded within the linguistic record and linguistic landscape of Aotearoa, and how this knowledge can be revitalised in a modern world. Based at Waikato University and utilising a collaborative approach, this project is grounded in kaupapa Māori methodology and will be undertaken in two phases which include the following methods (i) an examination of the extant literature, (ii) kanohi ki te kanohi interviews. The study of astronomy is a critical component across cultures, and has influenced the evolution of all peoples. The benefits and outcomes of such a project will support the enhancement of Māori distinctiveness through contributing to the enrichment of the mana of our knowledge and language.

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