When Mereana Gell returned to Aotearoa after many years overseas, she felt out of touch with te ao Māori.
Living in the Middle East and Australia for years had allowed her to embrace foreign languages and culture, but she felt disconnected from her own.
Like many of her generation, there was no knowledge passed down to her in her youth due to ingrained stigma and negative perceptions.
So Mereana set out to learn and change her old way of thinking. She began her journey with te reo Māori and is now learning tikanga to help her understand how and why things are done in te ao Māori.
“The (tikanga) programme has given me an opportunity to be challenged around some of my attitudes and thinking and have a place where I can ask questions and have them answered and reasoned out.”
She admits that returning to education at her age first seemed daunting, but her “brilliant” kaiako has been accommodating and understanding.
Mereana now finds herself navigating her role as kuia in her class. While she is used to being the matriarch of her household, she says how strange it is for her to be shooed away from doing too many duties during noho.
Her tamariki, also tauira with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, are a source of encouragement and like to challenge her old way of thinking.
She is thankful for the learning opportunities and conversations her learning has presented.
“Now it’s just about absorbing the information that I've learnt and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to put into practice some of the things that we have learnt.”