October 19, 2020

Living by the moonlight: Maramataka  

Ma te rongo, ka mohio,

Ma te mohio; ka marama,

Ma te marama, ka matau,

Ma te matau ka ora

From listening comes knowledge,

From knowledge comes understanding,

From understanding comes wisdom,

From wisdom comes wellbeing

“When the yellow kōwhai tree is in flower, it is a message to us that any seafood under the water that has a roe that is yellow is ready for harvest. When the red pōhutukawa is in flower, the koura, the crayfish, is ready for harvest. So, there’s a relationship between the bush, the sea and the environment. The Maramataka has it all.”

– Dame Rangimarie Naida Glavish for The Spinoff

Māori have long understood the connection between people and place. The role of the moon as a timekeeper has guided tikanga (culture, custom, protocol) for generations and marks the beginning of significant occasions throughout the year.

Maramataka is more than a calendar – it’s a marker of time – reminding us to observe our surroundings, reflect on our experiences, and connect with whānau and taiao (environment). It serves not only to inform, but educate, and in a handful of schools rangatahi are learning how the practice relates to their everyday life.

Four mainstream schools in West Auckland are on a journey to embed Maramataka in everyday learning, guided through a Māori co-design framework by Chrissy Hiraani from Healthy Families Waitākere. Tauira (students) are equipped with resources including a Maramataka dial and journal to track how the lunar cycle affects their emotions, mood, energy, mahi (work) and taiao tohu (environmental cues). Chrissy explains.

“Schools are unique places where tauira learn health and wellbeing practices which last a lifetime. We are using a framework underpinned in Te Ao Māori (Māori world view), returning to traditional Māori practices and principles that have sustained whānau for generations. It is important rangatahi see themselves and their whakapapa reflected in what they learn, and Maramataka is one tool in the kete.”

Tauira are guided through the framework through a number of sessions, working towards students determining how they’d like to see Maramataka used in their school. The initiative is designed to see tauira leading the way for the entire school community, sharing the practice amongst peers and whānau, whilst building their own identity and mātauranga Māori. A tauira taking part in the initiative explains. 

“Maramataka has shown us how we can use Te Ao Māori every day. We didn’t get to learn this stuff, our whānau don’t know it, so now we can teach them.”

It’s widely acknowledged that normalising indigenous knowledge in mainstream education is not only of benefit for Māori, but for the whole school community (The Māori Education Experience, Bishop and Berryman 2006). The Maramataka initiative is part of an ongoing movement across the motu to place indigenous knowledge on an equal footing to that of western frameworks, recognising the long-held whakaaro (understanding) that good health for Māori is embedded in generational cultural knowledge and concepts of wellbeing.

The question is, what kind of community do we want to be?

One which embraces the strengths and uniqueness a bicultural nation brings? Or one which disregards it?

If we all as people, in our community and where we work, recognise our commitment to one another under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, all children will lead healthy, meaningful and creative lives in Aotearoa. E ai ki te kōrero, “Ko ngā rangatahi ngā rangatira mō apōpō” – Our children are the leaders of tomorrow

This initiative was brought to life through the collective mahi of a rōpū (group) in West Auckland, with members from Healthy Families Waitākere, Toi Tangata, Hāpai te Hauora, Te Whānau o Waipareira and Te Ha Oranga.

Healthy Families Waitākere has compiled resources from experts across the Maramataka field.

Ngā mihi nui ki a Matua Rereata, Heeni Hoterene, Reuben Taipari, Kerrie Blackmoore, Hana Maihi, Rikki Solomon koutou ko Dr Rangi Matamua.