Hero photograph
Photo by Leoni Combrink

Karakia Hauora – Whakataki

Emma Lumb —

(Kaupapa Hauora) Well-being Chant – Opening (for opening a class/session on well-being topics)

In preparation for the launch of our programme well-being modules in the Senior College this term, Regan Stokes and I wrote a karakia for use in those and other well-being focused activities. As well as referring to Mason Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā model of health, we settled on the metaphor of tī kōuka (cabbage trees) to represent the idea of well-being, particularly in light of the fact that tī kōuka are healthiest and most resilient when they are not isolated. We consulted with Mātauraka Mahaanui Education Committee who gave approval of the work, then Leoni Combrink designed the visuals for the poster and information sheet.

We welcome people to freely use and share the karakia and supporting resources. Copies of the A1 poster are available for purchase via the college. website.

Use of karakia

Karakia are chants, traditionally used to acknowledge an atua (one of the many gods or representations of nature), bring about a sense of calm and purpose, or within a group to establish a sense of cohesion or unity. Some karakia are used to acknowledge an atua before eating or harvesting nature’s resources, whilst other karakia are used before embarking on a journey, or to open and close hui (meetings) or akoranga (lessons).

In a school setting karakia help to calm a class, establish routine, encourage unity and signal the stepping into and out of a learning space. If a hui or akoranga is opened with a karakia whakataki, then it must be closed at the end with a karakia whakakapi. When there is formal learning involved, karakia can be seen as establishing the tapu (sacredness) of a learning space, with the karakia whakakapi used to move out of this tapu space at the end of the akoranga. The thinking behind this is that in the Māori world, the creation of anything is considered to be tapu, whether it is new learning, a new artwork, or new life. An important tikanga of te ao Māori is that the opposing but complementary forces of tapu (sacredness) and noa (commonness) should not be mixed; therefore if you are using a karakia whakataki to open a tapu learning space, no kai (food) or inu (drinks other than fresh water) should be consumed within that physical area as it would degrade the tapu of the learning space. Fresh water is fine to consume as it is a large part of the human body, which is also tapu. It is still fine to consume kai/inu within a lesson, as long as it is consumed in a separate physical space to the learning environment. It should be noted however that each iwi has its own tikanga so there are different variations and interpretations of these concepts.

Finally, when using a karakia to open and close a hui or akoranga, it’s important to check the translation first and make sure that the content of the karakia relates to the content of your hui or akoranga.

Karakia Hauora

The karakia above has been written to use when opening a class or activity with a well-being kaupapa (topic). Only the reo Māori version should be read, ideally off by heart, though it is fine to start out with the words projected or printed to help initially.

The first section establishes tī kōuka (cabbage trees) as a symbol of well-being, reflecting on their value. Tī kōuka are prolific in Ōtautahi, and have many uses. They are a traditional food source: the young shoots can be eaten, as well as the roots and inside of the trunk[i]. This Ngāi Tahu Mahinga Kai clip explains cooking tī kōuka[ii]. Tī kōuka also have medicinal uses, including being made into poultices for wounds. The trees are very resilient to extremes – the name ‘tī kōuka’ means wind-resistant, and ‘tī kāuka’ (an alternative name) means fire-resistant[iii]. In fact, they are so fire resistant that it is said that early Pākehā settlers would use the bark to line the chimney space in early dwellings[iv]. The fibres of the leaves can be used to make rope, twine and protective clothing. This resilience and versatility led them also to be used as journey markers, with uru (groves) being planted at the distance of roughly a day’s walk to provide checkpoints, direction and a place to camp overnight before continuing the next day[v]. For example, the famous grove of Tī Kōuka called Te Herenga Ora on the front field of Burnside High School was used by early Waitaha and Ngāi Tahu as a marker for Māori travelling between Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) or Rāpaki and the pā at Kaiapoi[vi].

The second section focuses on the taonga of well-being using the four aspects of Te Whare Tapa Whā, Mason Durie’s famous 1982 model of Māori health.

The final section leads into the traditional closing, with encouragement to stand as this embodiment of well-being. The call of ‘Kia tina’ to hold firm, which can be interpreted as pulling the ropes joining the two hulls of the traditional double-hulled waka which navigated the ocean, links to the use of tī kōuka fibres for ropes, as do the calls to weave together and work in unity of ‘Haumi ē, hui ē, TĀIKI Ē’ like a strong uru of tī kōuka.

This karakia hauora was written by Regan Stokes (Ngāi Te Rangi) and Emma Lumb at Te Puna Wai o Waipapa Hagley College, Ōtautahi Christchurch, for use in the College well-being programme. Mātauraka Mahaanui Education Committee gave approval of the work. Design by Leoni Combrink, Te Puna Wai o Waipapa Hagley College.

We welcome people to freely use and share the karakia and supporting resources. Copies of the large poster are available for purchase via the College website.