Voice artist asked to pronounce Maori place name the 'white way'

News 28/04/2018

A voice artist has been praised by Kiwi film maestro Taika Waititi for refusing to pronounce a Māori word the "white way".

Dave Ward, an Aucklander who reads adverts and voice scripts for a living, took to social media site Twitter on Friday to tell the Thor: Ragnarok director about his principled stand.

"Hey @TaikaWaititi, for the first time in 18 years, I refused to voice scripts today," Mr Ward wrote.

He posted an image of his instructions, which said to read Waimate "the 'white' way - WHY MAT EE".

"I don't care if it's what the customer wants. My voice pays our mortgage and I won't lend it to this. 'Low level' racism like pronunciation is still racism and this is NOT 'the white way'."

Mr Waititi, who has recently labelled New Zealanders who deliberately mispronounce Māori place names as "racist as f**k", hailed Mr Ward's stance.

"Ka mau te wehi, e hoa!" he wrote, which in English translates to "fantastic, mate", or "terrific, mate", according to the online Māori Dictionary.

The Māori Language Commission told Fairfax Mr Ward was being "professional" in demanding the correct pronunciation.

"We recognise that when you have been brought up pronouncing a word one way it can be a challenge to change the way you talk. But everyone who does this helps revitalise New Zealand's own language and builds our unique national identity," said acting chief executive Tuehu Harris.

Mr Ward hasn't revealed which company asked him to say Waimate, the name of a small Canterbury town, the 'white' way. He voices ads for NZME.

Mr Waititi told UK magazine Dazed earlier this month said while "New Zealand is the best place on the planet", it is racist.

"People just flat-out refuse to pronounce Māori names properly."

In 2016, NZME-owned rock station Hauraki changed the way announcers said its name from 'How-racky' to the corrected Māori pronunciation.

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