Ngā Taurahere – a new Māori translation of The Internationale

ISO members Kaakatarau Te Pou Kohere (Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tuhoe, Ngāti te ata Waiohua, Kai Tahuand Tima Thurlow (Ngāi Tuhoe) are developing a new Māori translation of the workers’ anthem The Internationale. Kaakatarau spoke to Shōmi Yoon about the considerations and politics of The Internationale and the connections to Māoritanga and te ao Māori threaded through this translation. Ngā Taurahere is a working title.

What motivated you and Tima to translate The Internationale into te Reo Māori?

Initially, I tried to find it in te reo Māori, but the one that I found on Youtube felt a little deficient in capturing the spirit of The Internationale, but also in te reo Māori. I felt the Māori translation was too literal a translation of the English translation, which didn’t convey the mana of the waiata, its kaupapa, or concepts going back in history and its representations across time. I felt the translation had lost the spirit of The Internationale, but was missing what te reo Māori could bring to The Internationale in talking to its kaupapa. 

My initial attempt was to zhuzh up the original translation but Tima knew the French, and how to sing it, and so he suggested that we should translate from the original French, which is the real essence. 

What kind of ideas did you and Tima pick up on moving away from the literal translation of this waiata? Did you have any difficulties translating concepts from the French into te reo Māori?

The key phrases that came up for us in the original were phrases like “the wretched of the earth”, because that in itself is really evocative language. It talks about how people felt at the time, but how society  framed toil and work. Even though work is the very essence of society, its life blood, it is how society functions, there is an equal amount of disgust for it. And so our first phrase at the beginning talks to that: “Maranga mai te ngakau pouri, Maranga mai te mate kai”. “Ngakau pouri” are the sad hearts, “mate kai” refers to the starving, the hungry, and those who need sustenance. I think this kōrero exists today. There are still those who are poor, and hungry, and equally, the disgust that is put on these people who are in these positions. 

It was an adventure to do the translation and to play with te Reo. The Internationale is a waiata, and there’s a variety of Māori song styles that we drew on. In attempting to capture ideas in the French about righting historical wrongs and injustices, I drew on moteatea – an old style of music but incredibly poetic. This was a challenge, because I couldn’t rely on my conversational Māori, and I had to think through what kind of concepts do we want, how have kupu  been used, and how does it relate to this context, and could we use this twist to express it in a new way? For example “whakawhanoke”, was a term used in a lot of waiata in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and has an association with Ngāti Porou. On its own, it means strange, different, rerekē, but in the context of Ngāti Porou it means unique and different. “Te Ao whakawhanoke” in the waiata is not just a world we’re going to change, but one we’re going to make special, different, and make anew. 

We also mixed in well-known idioms like, “Hei tama tu, hei tama ora”, which comes from “Tama tū tama ora; tama noho tama mate”. This is because these idioms are recognised within New Zealand educational circles, not just by Māori. This idiom talks to the virtue of self-activity, and its inclusion in the translation brings Māoritanga, one of the underlying principles of te ao Māori, and connects Māori principles as a basis of revolutionary action. I want te ao Māori in my revolution, and this is how I’ll do it. 

I really liked the words you used to describe kaimahi, workers, as “ringa raupa (calloused hands).  Can you share your thoughts on that?

This translation of workers works in English too. In English, we say things like, “we have to get our hands dirty”, or “we have to do the work”. And this was something that came across to te Ao Māori due to the material conditions of our society. Looking at carpentry, farming, weaving, whakairo, mara and tukutuku  all of these things, it’s the labour that you do with your hands. I used “Ringa raupa” as a call back to those days, but these days it might be more the calloused fingertips of an office worker, or broken backs from work. But I wanted to focus on the imagery of that labour having a consequence on your body, and leaving a physical mark. In using “ringa raupa” in the waiata, we talk about the impact of labour. In te ao Māori, we recognise productivity, and the value of someone working.  “Moea te ringa raupa” is the whakatauki that it comes from, and it means to marry a person who has calloused hands, in other words, it’s better to marry a hard worker. I think this is a concept that exists in te ao Pākeha, that sort of recognition, and valuing that labour.

Ngā mihi ki a kōrua to both you and Tima for your mahi, and we look forward to seeing a translation of verse two in the near future.

Ngā Taurahere – The Internationale

Maranga mai te ngakau pouriArise the broken-hearted
Maranga mai te mate kaiArise the starving
Puia mai a kare a rotoLet your emotions erupt forth
Anei te puha o te mutungaIt is the final conflagration
Utua te hara tuku ihoPay back the suffering passed down
E te hunga, maranga maiOh the masses, rise up
Ko te ao ka whakawhanokeThe world we shall make unique
Hei tama tu, hei tama oraSo that we may rise, so we may live
Korihi: Kati ra te wewehi noaChorus: So no longer be frightened
He atatu ka reaA new dawn shall rise
Ma te ringa raupaFor, by the worker
Ka ao, ka awatea The world shall be bright