Posted By Anna Watson
Te Kōtare – a project to make Jenny Shearer’s dream fly

Jenny was a early childhood teacher who had a dream that all children would grow up in Aotearoa feeling comfortable moving through their own world and the world of tangata whenua. Jenny passed away before this dream happened. We talk to her whanau about how they are now making this dream a reality through a PledgeMe campaign.

Why do you think this campaign is important?

My wife Jen had a really strong passion for teaching children te reo māori – she was  a pre-school teacher, and took great care to fulfill this part of the curriculum. When she became unwell the first time, she reconsidered her work, and took some more time to focus on the songs she had been writing and teaching the children at her pre school (Little Earth Montessori, on the Kāpiti Coast). She worked really hard with local Māori to be respectful to the language, and to local history. In particular, she worked a lot with Matiu Te Huki, who is something of a local legend (and an international one, in fact) to craft the songs and the lyrics – Matui teaches waiata to children all around the Kāpiti area, and was amazing help.

So, Jen’s dream, was that these waiata could contribute to the education of children, and giving them more tools to live bi-culturally. We are not Māori, neither was Jen, but we are pākehā, and  we think that it is very important to live in a bi-cultural way – that’s the deal, and we can only have better lives by doing that.

It’s clear that as a language, Māori has a huge disadvantage – in that it is not as widely used as it could be, or should be – but it has this great advantage also, it’s beautiful and interesting and fun to learn.  Jenny just wanted to play her part in spreading a bit of that around.  Because she died, before we could get them recorded, it’s important to us, to honour her dream, and get them to as wide an audience as possible.

What motivated you to reach out to your crowd?

Our crowd is quite interesting. Many many people came to Jenny’s funeral, you know, for an introvert, it was amazing just how many people were there and were affected by her passing. She was such an encourager to so many people. She died soon after we completed transcribing all the songs she had written, so many people knew about her dream.

PledgeMe seems to be a perfect way to follow up on that dream, and reach out to the various groups – her close and distant family, colleagues from the early childhood sector, old school friends, other parents. We are really seeing a great response from people with interest in early childhood and primary education, music, and te reo, which is just what we had hoped for!

What do you have planned for the rest of the campaign – anything for us to look forward to?

We are still in the process of polishing off some of the recordings, and we are working on the songs having some real Wellington love behind them – while they are all recorded, we are approaching a number of fabulous artists, people like Warren Maxwell, and Lisa Tomlins, Al Faser, who is known for his knowledge and expertise in taonga puoro – we’ll be polishing off the recordings with these folk too. And more animations of the songs, we are super excited about that!

Anything you would like to shout out to your crowd?

Yes!  We are so grateful for the support of Matiu te Huki, for the reasons mentioned before. And also for Lee Prebble – we had a really fun day in his studio, where so many music legends have recorded, he has been so generous in his support for this project.

And to everyone who has pledged and contributed in many ways so far, or about to. Honouring Jen’s dream in this way is the best that any of us could do for her.

You can pledge to the Te Kōtare campaign here

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