This year Suzanne Aubert’s Manuscript of Māori Conversation was inscribed onto the UNESCO Memory of the World Aotearoa New Zealand Register. This is a significant moment because it acknowledges Meri Hōhepa/Suzanne Aubert’s relationship with the tangata whenua, her desire for all people to get on well together and it will ensure that her work will not be forgotten.
Suzanne Aubert/Meri Hōhepa had been living in New Zealand for 24 years before she wrote the Māori English phrase-book written between 1883 – 1885 while living at Hiruhārama Jerusalem. This outstanding phrase and grammar book was written with the assistance of native speakers can still be relied on today as a guide to good usage and genuine Māori idiom. The book was written at a time when there was a scarcity of any literature on te reo Māori. She wrote it to meet the needs of those who had expressed ‘astonishment and disappointment at not being able to procure any book that would help them acquire a little practical knowledge of the Māori language’. The manual, as written on the title page, covers a whole variety of subjects which people of two cultures might meet and converse about. A few general rules of grammar were added because Suzanne wanted to give a few general rules of grammar ‘to gratify the reader’s curiosity’.