MIHI by Gavin Bishop
Gavin Bishop’s MIHI is a beautifully illustrated little board book for babies. It is a child’s version of a pepeha, the traditional way Maori introduce themselves by making connections to places and people.
The child’s story begins in the distant past. A waka is shown riding a big wave to Aotearoa. The journey continues from maunga to awa, marae, iwi, whanau, mama and papa until it reaches the child itself.
For MIHI Gavin Bishop has chosen to use a limited colour palette: earthy brown, green and blue, the colours of our landscape. There are no distracting background details behind the portraits. But as a surprise a cute little soft toy bunny is seen posing with the whanau.
Babies would enjoy the simple stylised pictures as well as the short repetitive phrases in te reo. But as they grow and their horizons widen, they will gradually be able to unwrap the deeper meanings contained in this book about Maori culture.
Like most adults I missed out on learning any te reo at school as for many years it was not valued. There are still some elderly people who can remember being strapped for speaking te reo at school. But progress has been made and today learning te reo in a playful way is part of the preschool curriculum. So, parents who read MIHI to pre-schoolers at home might well discover that they are already familiar with what a pepeha is, can sing a waiata and say a karakia.
The fascinating story of how Gavin Bishop (Ngati Pukeko, Ngati Awa, Ngati Mahuta, Tainui ) went in search of his own whakapapa when he was well into adulthood and a recording of his Mihi are available on the publisher’s website. But not only Maori are invited to create a mihi nowadays.
When I enrolled for a beginner’s Te Reo class recently, we were all asked to create our own pepeha. It gave us a chance to get to know more about each other and to think about where we belong now.
MIHI was written foremost for babies and would make a lovely gift for one. But it could also be used as a framework by families who would like to create a pepeha based on their own family history and the places they feel connected to.
Reviewer: Lyn Potter
Gecko Press. RRP $17.99