The Healthy Families Whanganui Rangitīkei Ruapehu team have been actively involved in the revitalisation of maramataka, a traditional Māori system and science for determining how and when critical hapū functions and practices would be performed. Maramataka was a guiding framework for managing the health and wellbeing of the community.
For the past 12-18 months Systems Innovator Meretini Bennett-Huxtable has been working to create awareness of Maramataka as a tool to assist both Māori and non-Māori alike in maintaining their health and wellbeing.
Healthy Families has hosted wānanga and gathered insights from across communities to better understand how people are using Maramataka to manage health and wellbeing priorities, work-life balance, reflective practice, and increased self-awareness and accountability for themselves and their whānau. The results so far have been insightful, with a range of people sharing how Maramataka is helping them to make sense of the way they are feeling.
In late 2019, early 2020 the Healthy Families team brought together communities to share Maramataka learnings specific to the Whanganui and Rangitīkei region, and find out how people want to interact with this Māori system.
“Wānanga were well attended and received. In fact they were so popular we were unable to meet the demand so we had to explore alternative ways of engaging people" said Meretini.
The team have since developed an electronic maramataka calendar overlay that users can download on their device. The overlay sits inside their existing online calendar and provides the user with the meanings behind the day’s energy. They can then utilise this information to examine energy patterns, tidal flow and aspects of the natural environment alongside their own energy levels, feelings, and motivations. With this information whānau can proactively manage their day to day activities, plans or intentions.
Whanganui uri, Racquel McKenzie has been utilising maramataka for the last 12 months, she attended the workshops held by the Healthy Families team and utilises the calendar overlay in both her work and personal life.
“In my mahi I’ve used the maramataka to determine when or not to hold hui and to meet with people around certain kaupapa and I’ve been able to share and wānanga what I know within the office with my colleagues”.
“On the personal side I’ve decided that every Whiro (new moon) will be a day just for me. During lockdown I realised that I don’t actually spend time on me, I’m busy with the tamariki, my whānau ,our house and mahi and ‘me time’ has gotten a bit lost in the process. So I’ve made a conscious decision to make Whiro my day – if it falls on a week day I take annual leave and if its on a weekend I take time out for me, I use the time to be internal so I can reflect on the month that was and then plan for the month ahead, I also use it to get outside and to do something that I’m passionate about, taking photos, doing me” she said.
“The Healthy Families team have done a great job of bringing maramataka to the forefront. They’ve produced some amazing resources that have helped me in my maramataka journey, and created the opportunity for shared learning. To hear other peoples whakaaro, to kōrero, to wananga this kaupapa.”.
The Healthy Families team have also developed an online platform via Instagram that has had a significant level of engagement. There are currently 40 people participating in an online health and wellbeing insights gathering process. Healthy Families WRR wants to better understand how people are actively using maramataka to manage their day to day health and wellbeing. The feedback so far has been really positive.
“What has become the normal way of living ‘go, go, go’ has been a contradiction to our traditional way of life, realising the relationship I have with the maramataka and in turn with the natural environment just makes sense to me” says McKenzie.
“Mental health continues to be a significant issue in our country. What we are hearing, which is exciting, is how people are creating space to pause, reflect, then manage a more balanced life using Maramataka. They’re using a Māori framework, or system as a practical learning experience. “ says Meretini.
It is important that we explore how Kaupapa Māori ways of thinking and being in contemporary settings can better improve lifestyles. For Māori there is an ever present correlation between the physical environment and our collective wellbeing. It is important we contribute to the movement of knowledge holders and practioners who are working with whānau to show how indigenous systems can really shift cultural and social norms says Impact Strategist and Healthy Families Whanganui Rangitīkei Ruapehu Manager, Rebecca Davis.