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July 29, 2019 | by  | in Ngāi Tauira | [ssba]



Nā Fin Johnson


Emotional literacy is something that is not taught in schools. We are taught when to use a comma, but not when to stop and breathe. A question mark at the end of a sentence, but never to question how we are really feeling deep down underneath. An exclamation mark to signify a strong emotion, while not being taught how to identify those that set our everyday in motion. We are shown how to punctually finish a sentence, but not how to functionally deal with those dark emotions that make us want to full stop.


“Suppression is depression”


I see great wisdom in this phrase, as it has me walking down the dark streets of Johnsonville on a Monday night. Dog leash in my left hand and Notes app in my right, the cold wind bites my fingers as I walk in the winter moonlight. I tackle suppression through creative expression, as I write rhymes in my Notes app, piece by piece the progression. 


Loss, grief, compassion. These are the three kaupapa that were addressed and creatively expressed at a brand new event called Manawataki – Cadence of Youth. Manawataki was a two-night rap and spoken word poetry showcase that featured eight rangatahi, captivating audiences at both the National Library and The Hunter Lounge. The aim of our event was to provide rangatahi with a platform to creatively express themselves, and share their own stories and experiences with loss, grief, and compassion.  


The event served as a wake-up call in a time where our perceptions of others are constantly filtered and moderated through the lens of social media. The raw and confronting nature of so many of the pieces provided authentic insight into the experiences of loss, grief, and compassion that so many of us face. This is particularly important for students, as it is easy to stay within your own bubble,surrounded by only those with similar views and experiences.  


For most of the performers, this showcase marked their first time on stage, the first time for their voices to be heard. With deep kaupapa like loss, grief, and compassion, it was a space where the rangatahi were vulnerable, and had to courageously lay themselves bare in front of friends, family, and strangers. There is great power in vulnerability, and this is evident through the deep respect that results between performers at an event like this. 


The impact of the event was felt by all; the tears of joy, sadness, and empathy persisted throughout the night. The nature of the impact varied among attendees. Some described Manawataki as the most Māori cultural exposure that they have ever had; for some, the performances resurfaced old pain that was then healed; while others were just shocked at the sense of connection and energy that was felt in the atmosphere. The most important feedback that the event received was plain and simple: We need more of this.


Events like these are not possible without the support of existing organisations in the community who support the kaupapa. Manawataki could not have been possible without the support of the following: Mary Potter Hospice, the National Library of New Zealand, SaySo Project, The Hunter Lounge, Abandoned Brewery, and Te Kawa a Māui (the VUW Māori studies department).  



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