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Te reo Māori has its champions and contenders. The minority detractors can cause brands to retreat in fear, rather than bravely connecting with the majority of New Zealanders who embrace it. But recently, Six60 showed that being culturally awesome is the best way to be culturally safe.
This year has seen many brands be more confident in celebrating and normalizing te reo Māori. Whittakers made headlines by translating their iconic Creamy Milk block into te reo Māori to celebrate Te Wiki o te reo Māori, and Lewis Road Creamery created a limited edition Matariki beverage. We had the privilege of helping L&P release their first limited edition summer can all in te reo Māori. We also were proud to support SIX60 with te reo Māori promotion of their summer tour.
Oddly though, Australian News Presenter Rowan Dean on Sky News made disparaging comments about Six60’s te reo Māori posters while in an interview with NZ Free Speech Union Jonathan Ayling. Referring to Six60, he said Six60 “or whatever” were using a “new language” (te reo Māori) and condemned it as excluding half of New Zealanders.
SIX60s response was to double down, releasing merchandise with “Six60 or whatever” and their tour dates in te reo Māori. They posted a montage video to their Instagram showing their concerts throughout the world where they take Māori language and culture to the world with pride.
They wrote, “SIX60 is all about bringing people together, no matter the language” and “free tickets to this guy if he wants to experience some positivity”.
To see Six60’s response here:
Their defense of te reo Māori only affirmed fans' admiration and pride in them as a brand. Our belief about SIX60 is that we’re proud of who they are, what they’ve achieved and what they represent. We’re not only loyal to them as a brand, but as a signifier of our collective identity. So by extension, their decision to use and defend the use of te reo Māori and share it with the world, reaffirms te reo Māori as an essential and loveable part of our New Zealand identity.
SIX60 brought the Black Ferns on stage with them at their latest concert at Eden Park after their World Cup win.
When we defend te reo Māori with pride, personality and positivity the right audiences will honour what it represents and what it creates for our language and identity. That creates momentum of positive energy and good will for all New Zealanders.
So, join the party, sing the anthem, use te reo, wear the t-shirt. Whatever it takes to remove ignorance, racism and elevate the status of our indigenous language for all.