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September 10, 2018 | by  | in Features Splash Te Ao Mārama | [ssba]

Mana wahine… ko au?

Here we are, sitting in the Matariki room at Te Herenga Waka. A group of Māori students sharing our ideas for the upcoming issue of Te Ao Marama. I’m writing a feature piece on Mana Wahine and feel warmed inside to be sharing the room with all of the tauira who surround the table alongside me.

Awkwardly, I share the ideas I had for the a Mana Wahine piece with the group. I always get a bit nervous speaking in front of people. At the time I didn’t say it exactly like this – but now when I rehash it in my head it kind of sounds like…

Tauira to the right, tauira to the left.

“I haven’t really thought about it yet… I could do this… or I could do that… maybe a compilation of the thoughts of prominent Mana Wahine academics…?” To which the editor interrupts me and says “you know you could do it on yourself? And even the women you know around you?”

My mind starts to whirr. Mana wahine… a woman with mana… me? Are you saying that I might be accessing the power of mana wahine?

Now when I refer to mana wahine, I am in this instance referring to women who may or may not be accessing the mana of the ātua. Wāhine with mana. I know this might be judgemental, but I take a good long look at the Māori women sitting in the room with me and I think to myself, “of course THEY are wāhine with mana.” Wāhine who are writing, wāhine who are sharing, wāhine who are speaking their truth.

And I think about the academics whose views I was going to share; Leonie Pihama, Linda Tuhiwai-Smith, Aroha Yates, Ngahuia Murphy and those even closer to home as a student here at Vic; Rawinia Higgins, Maria Bargh, Ocean Mercier, Karena Kelly, Awanui Te Huia among countless others.

Again, in my mind I’m like “THEY are DEFINITELY wāhine with mana.” Insert excited emoticons x 10.

These women are grandmothers, mothers, doing important research, on heaps of Māori related boards with cool names, educating and teaching, involved with their hapū, iwi and their communities… the list goes on literally pretty much forever.  

Then my mind crosses to the wāhine ātua and I’m like “omg these wāhine are the epitome of wāhine with mana.” The be all and the end all.

I mean Papatūānuku is the ENTIRE EARTH and Hinetītama she was the first human fucking being who then became Hine-nui-te-Pō and crushed the demi-god Māui (which sometimes people think was bad for humanity and stuff because now we mortal, but really I think it’s a bit badass because seriously he went there without asking for permission first).

Then there’s Hineteiwaiwa who with her fellow wāhine avenged the death of Tutunui the whale (if you don’t quite know that one read Dr Aroha Yates PhD thesis on the Ātua Wāhine).

Then I remember my great-nanny Rangipikitia of whom I’m named after. She went into labour while gardening, delivered her own baby, cleaned the baby off, wrapped it up and then kept gardening.

And so I’m like MINDBLOWN. This is what mana wahine is about.

Now if delivering your own baby and then continuing on with the gardening isn’t just straight badass then I don’t know what is.

But when it comes to me, and the mahi I’m doing as a writer and a Master’s student at Victoria I hesitate. Wahine toa? A wāhine with mana? Me? Just the thought of it and I shrink inside just a little bit. Actually maybe a lot.

There’s two sides to the coin that sits inside of me. On one side I’m like yea “duh, of course I am.”

Yet on the other side a little voice inside says to me “no you aren’t.”

So I have to ask myself. Why I am happy to acknowledge and celebrate the mana in other wāhine and yet in myself… I’m clearly not?

Maybe it has something to do with this whakatauki, Kāore te kumara e kōrero ana mo tōna ake reka.

On the other hand, I think about whakapapa and I remember that I’m a descendant of Hine-ahu-one and Hinetītama, meaning I’m also a descendent of Papatūānuku and Tāne. They are a part of me.

Then I remember my great-nanny Rangipikitia, my nanny Herapia and great-great nanny Kanarahi (who my whānau today says was a dragon but I’m sure she was just total mana wahine). They are a part of me.

I imagine all of those ātua wāhine standing behind me, and my great-great nanny, great-nanny, nanny standing behind me and everyone else as well.

I remember now. Their mana, the mana of the collective and the mana of our whakapapa uplifts all and every single one of us.

So unless I’m prepared to say that all the ātua wāhine and wāhine that ever went before me – right back into the beginning of space and time – didn’t have mana then I better get straight with myself.

I am a women with mana. I am MANA WAHINE.

Nā Ataria Rangipikitia

Ngāpuhi, Tapuika



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