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Aotearoa whanau reach out to draw strength from their Pacific heritage

Monday 20 November 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Local, National

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Aotearoa whanau reach out to draw strength from their Pacific heritage
Te Whānau Mānihera and supporters at the Vakatini Palace on Friday. PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS/23111730

Aotearoa Marae on Rarotonga played host to a group who were here reconnecting with their heritage.

Te Whānau Mānihera manager Jasmine Mānihera was among 15 family members, whanau, from Aotearoa, New Zealand, who worked for two years to turn their dream into reality.

They are Kawakawa based, in Northland, and the three-week trip was something they aimed for when their whanau started on a journey of healing inter-generational trauma.

Te Whānau Mānihera was established two years ago as a collective of siblings who wanted to reconnect with their language, allowing them to access a part of their cultural identity, which had been closed off to them for most of their lives, Mānihera said.

“We were urbanised in Auckland city, our grandfather moved his family from Matauri to Auckland with 10 children, so we grew up urbanised.

“Our grandfather grew up fluent, he cut off all access to it; there was no value in it; we grew up with toxic cycles, poverty, alcohol and drug addiction.”

She said the group of six siblings set out to stop the toxic cycle.

Being on Rarotonga for three weeks, and connecting with their Pacific heritage had been part of the journey of healing.

“To walk the path of our ancestors.

“We can’t leave it up to anyone else, we have to change the world for our children,” Mānihera said.

“Having access to our cultural identity.”

Mānihera said the group had identified two of their cultural ancestors during their stay on Rarotonga.

The group undertook workshops with Cook Islands master carver Mike Tavioni over three days, and co-ordinated their stay and activities with Jaewynn McKay.

“It has been a beautiful stay at Aotearoa Marae; it has been like home; this is part of what we are used to.”

The group established their own business, home based schooling in Northland, about two years ago, and have nine students, aged three to 14.

Mānihera, with 27 years teaching experience, said learning had become part of life for the students through the teachings of elders.

“Our children have seen learning that feeds them.

“We spend a lot of time on marae taking kids to workshops.”

Mānihera said the group had felt a connection with the Cook Islands, specifically through language.

“The strongest thing we are taking home is the connection, physical and spiritual; we take home with us, a part of our story.”