Ngaai Tahu reviving mau raakau in the South Island

By Moana Makapelu Lee
  • South Island

Mau raakau is an ancient practice from the gods, however despite this it was almost lost in Ngaai Tahu, according to a tutor who is reviving the ancient tradition amongst the women and men in the South Island. 

Meet Amo Tamainu, you might recognise her from a video that went viral when she and her cousins performed the wero for the opening of Tahuru marae, Arahura in the South Island.

Amo Tamainu - Ngaai Tahu, Taranaki says, “I was nervous to be honest, but it was an honour to do it because we haven't had our own marae and it was so good to finally have one of our own.”

Amo's tutor, who is also her father has been learning, teaching and developing the art of mau rakau in Ngaai Tahu his entire life. A practice he says was almost lost in the South Island, however he's glad to see the tradition growing amongst women as well as men, throughout New Zealand once again.

Jerry Pu - Ngaai Tahu, Taranaki says, “It's great to be honest with you. I still think that even in other tribes and other hapuu and iwi they're still not acknowledging their waahine and a lot of them were wahine toa, but hey it's not up to me. It would be nice to see it evolve a bit more.”

Despite questions from the public on the roles of men and woman in Ngaati Waewae, according to these male descendants women and men are, and always have been, equal.

Pu says, “It's not about moving with the times because its way back since Papakura who lead war parties and fought alongside her taane, Tuuhuru, and we're all descendants of them so if it's good enough back then for them, it’s good enough now for us.”

Caleb Robinson - Ngaai Tahu says, “I don't see it as a takahia on the mana of our men I think it's a whakamana to our women and to our men as well that our women are willing to stand beside them like that. I think it just shows the unity between all the people on Te Tai o Poutini.”

As the saying goes, by my basket, by your basket the people will survive. With the strength of women and men there is no doubt mau raakau will flourish once again in Ngaai Tahu.