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October 5, 2014 | by  | in Māori Matters Opinion |
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Maori Matters

Te Whare Tapa Whā has always been the go-to model to symbolise the four dimensions of Māori wellbeing. The stability of the wharenui is dependent on the balance of taha tinana (physical), taha whānau (family/social), taha hinengaro (mental), and wairua (spiritual). Much like the wharenui, kapa haka is a holistic representation of wellness.

You have rōpū like Te Mātārae I Ōrehu who aim to be in peak physical condition in order to emulate the supposed form of our toa, from a world where only the fit and strong survived. Of course, kapa haka is not just about chicken and kumara salad, six-packs and complicated choreography. Across the motu, rōpū are congregating to use their tinana through activities such as HakaFit and Kaumātua kapa haka.

These group activities are perfect environments for creating a sense of belonging. Through participating in kapa haka, you get to engage with others, building a relationship that lasts longer than your bracket. The rōpū quickly acts like a whānau as everyone pushes one another to broaden their limits. The social environment is safe and comfortable: there is plenty of āwhina and tautoko as everyone works together, like whānau.

Whānau challenge one another and keep each other safe. Arguably, physical security assists hinengaro if we follow Maslow’s model, highlighting the need for physiological, safety and social needs to be met before esteem and self-actualisation can be met. Kapa haka recovery programmes have been used as a forum for tangata whaiora to engage in a kaupapa Māori setting as alternative inpatient care. Participants have often expressed the positive effects it has had on their taha hinengaro, through the inclusiveness and the safety provided by the group.

Items within the bracket hold levels of spiritual essence, projected by each kaihaka. Through the kupu and actions within the waiata, the rōpū expresses their wairua and pays homage to people of their choice and often those who have gone before. The wairua found in kapa haka is evidence of the engagement with culture, tradition and language. Connectedness with these aspects of Māoridom is vital to upholding ones taha wairua.

Kapa haka is an example of how balance is emphasised in a single activity. Te Whare Tapa Whā extends further than having balance in one activity: it is holistic. After all, a whare is only as strong as its weakest wall. Mauri tū, mauri ora!

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