Taiaha wānanga have been run at Awhitu Estate, on the edge of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere for the past 25 years. The wānanga are open to boys and men who want to learn the ancient art of mau rākau, not for combat, but to carry traditional knowledge forward into the changing world. The three-day workshops have a drug, alcohol, and tobacco-free policy, as well as a strict zero tolerance approach to violence.
For Te Mairiki Williams (Ngāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Ātihaunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Hauiti ki Rata) the wānanga are about holistic wellbeing.
“It’s about returning to values that our ancestors lived by. Growing up with an open heart and open mind, showing empathy, and living with dignity.”
Some struggle with authority and discipline. “The best way to tackle that is to simply lead by example, be a good role model,” says Te Mairiki. “Some boys leave and set goals of coming back to be a kaiako or a kaiwero. There are also opportunities for them to learn and perform whaikōrero – setting goals and assuming leadership roles is very empowering.”
In Canterbury, taiaha wānanga are only open to men, but entire families benefit from the values that are carried forward from the wānanga.
Te Matatini 2015 will be a busy time for Te Mairiki and his kaiako, who will be part of the official opening ceremony. Many consider the event to be the pinnacle of Māori culture, but long after the show has moved on, taiaha wānanga at Awhitu Estate will continue to pass on Māori values and traditions to tomorrow’s leaders.
Nā Sampson Karst