Jade Whaanga is a trained dancer who has embarked on a journey to further explore her roots through the traditional Māori martial art, mau rākau.
Whaanga, who completed her Master of Dance Studies degree in 2018, enrolled into the Wānanga’s mau rākau course taught by renowned martial artist, Malcolm Kerehoma of Ngāti Whātua, after seeing it advertised.
"I've always wanted to do mau rākau but didn't know how to really engage with it," she says.
She explains that her initial desire to be involved with the art form stems from her wish to have mau rākau fostered in her family for the coming generations, as well as creating a greater sense of connection to their Māori culture.
"For me it was like a gateway into my own culture, because I understand movement; dancing is what I do so, going into a martial form felt like a really natural way of learning tikanga and te ao Māori, so it was just a really nice way to transition."
The Kahungunu descendant holds "jams" in Auckland parks with friends and whānau who are interested in the art. She actively encourages open participation.
"It's a really great way to get people active, especially in communities as well because it is fun and engaging as well as learning about the culture.
"I think it's important to bring that into public spaces to normalise what is the indigenous culture of this country."
Whaanga says that her journey with mau rākau has also inspired her delve into learning te reo.
"I really want to enroll in a course this year- it's always something I wanted to do. It is like a gateway, mau rākau, because I picked up a lot of the terminology in te reo Māori through doing the course and so now I feel a bit more comfortable moving into that."
She hopes to refine the skills that she has learnt with the ambition to hold workshops for wāhine in the coming months.