Meng Foon

and the reo of tauiwi

Meng Foon is probably one of the most well-known and visible examples of someone tauiwi/non-Māori who can confidently kōrero Māori.

When Steven Chow, who would become my co-producer/co-director, first mentioned his idea of doing a documentary on Meng as a high-profile Chinese New Zealander, I was immediately interested as someone who is also Chinese and who has also been learning Māori for the last decade or so.

It is rare to find older tauiwi who are vocal about being tangata Tiriti. Many other Chinese people of Meng’s generation have grown up with a monocultural lens of Aotearoa, and a view of Māori that has been shaped over many generations by a Pākehā perspective – one that, I don’t think it would be untrue to say, was often racist. That is something that we see in the documentary too. In one scene at a Tiriti workshop for Chinese New Zealanders (particularly older NZ-born Chinese), a participant expresses some colonised whakaaro that Meng has to gently navigate. It’s difficult to unpack decades of learnt bias in one sitting but Foon gives it a go anyway. He doesn’t tend to shy away from difficult things. As he loves to say, “Just do it, man.”

Link to article: Meng Foon and the reo of tauiwi | The Spinoff


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