Whakaaroaro – to ponder

The Māori dictionary defines ‘whakaaroaro’ as:


This is something I have done recently after reading a newspaper article that made my heart feel heavy.  The article was about land and sea drilling and two perspectives were given.

On one hand:

New Zealand had “barely scratched the surface of our potential” with regards to oil and gas

and on the other hand:

“Unless New Zealand deals with its fossil-fuel addiction and stops the extraction of gas and coal, we are virtually digging our planet’s grave”

Reading through the article, it was the latter comment that made me feel heavy.  Why?  Well let me explain.

When you learn te reo Māori, you learn more than just language structures.  You learn about Te Ao Māori, the Māori World.  You cannot learn te reo, without learning tikanga.  You cannot learn about tikanga, without learning about the marae.  You cannot learn about the marae, without learning about hapu and iwi and so on it goes.  I am learning that each aspect of Te Ao Māori, though perhaps separate in appearance, overlaps another in order to create the ‘whole’.  I think our Kaiāwhina explained this concept best.  He had been taught that te reo Māori uses two types of categories to describe everything: a-category and o-category.  Together, these two categories create: ‘ao’ – the Māori word for world.

When learning karakia in class, we often refer back to the creation story of Rangi and Papa – the Sky Father and Earth Mother.  In a Māori world view, stories are an important and useful way to record and explain certain events in history and, as I read the article, my thoughts pondered as to how one might retell the story of land and sea drilling/mining for future generations?

Let’s step back just a little further first.

One of my favourite kupu Māori is ‘Ūkaipō’ – literally translated as ū = breast, kai = food and pō = night in reference to a ‘wet nurse’.  I have seen Ūkaipō used as a term to describe Papatūānuku – meaning as a source of sustenance.  I have also seen Whenua used as a term to describe Papatūānuku – meaning land (or earth/soil).  Whenua is also used to describe placenta or afterbirth. All of these terms collectively help to describe Papatūānuku as the source of sustenance for all humanity; that which provides for, and nourishes humankind, as a mother would do for her children.

I have learned that man was created after the world in which he was to live, held all that he needed to survive; trees, birds, insects, fish to name a few.  Our basic needs then were met by resources immediately available above ground.  These gifts provided all of humanity with food, shelter and clothing and care was taken to ensure we took only what was needed to survive.  Like the a-category and o-category, these resources worked harmoniously to create the whole and, when the balance was off, well, that had consequences.  I have learned that the impact of deforestation resulted in the extinction of some bird species.

As I write this I am still wondering how one might retell the story of land and sea drilling to future generations based upon a Māori world view?

If I was to consider Papatūānuku in human form, as a human mother, and the extraction of resources as ‘organ removal’, how might this process serve her representation of humanity (her whānau) with its basic needs (food, shelter and clothing)?  The short answer: it doesn’t.  It would likely cost the human mother her life and the imbalance would have serious consequences for her whānau.  Upon reflection, that’s the part that makes my heart heavy.

Stories within Te Ao Māori are used to provide an account or explanation of historic events.  They also, often, provide a learning moment: an insight into what is correct, a moral if you like. Humanity seems to take a long time to learn these things.  A very wise wahine gave me some great advice recently and it seems timely to share.  Before we rush off and do something crazy, remember:

  1. Breathe
  2. Slow Down
  3. Be Patient
  4. Think about the process

If you were to consider Papatūānuku as your Mother, that which sustains you, how might you feel about deep sea exploration and mining?


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