“it’s like breathing your ancestors into life”
Drawing from the wisdom of the whakataukī ‘Te Amorangi ki mua, te hāpai ō ki muri’, explorations of breathing our ancestors into life can be attained through ‘amorangi’ spiritual realm and ‘hāpai o’ physical realm. Further, the late koroua, Wiremu Tawhai explained that those who follow are as vital to the journey as those who lead. This paper explores the ways rangatahi make sense of and live hapai te hauora – collective journeys of wellbeing. Rangatahi described ‘hapai te hauora,’ as breathing your ancestors into life. This conception captures the breadth and connections of a generation – rangatahi Māori – a younger Māori generation moving forward together.
First, 20 rangatahi (16-20 years) living in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland, New Zealand) from diverse backgrounds were interviewed by Māori researchers. From these rich and insightful data, short pūrākau (stories, histories and truths) were selected that captured meaningful expressions of wellbeing. These accounts spanned the complex health and social challenges rangatahi face today, covering the many life milestones, pressures and expectations that are thrust upon them. In synchrony with broader sociocultural developments rangatahi experience many changes during this life phase that can have long-lasting impacts on their health and wellbeing trajectory.
They have been largely alienated from their own cultural contexts of development, while also being subjugated and assimilated to western framings of health and wellbeing, more specifically non-Māori youth experiences. The acknowledgement that rangatahi Māori have contextually different experiences from non-Māori is an important starting point. The data show that rangatahi Māori experience similar facets and understandings of wellbeing, but that the issues are deeper, wider and entrenched in diversity, hardship, adversity, invisibility, silence, resilience and resistance.
I am working on this paper and hope to publish in 2022 in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand’s upcoming special issue on “The current and future state of child health and well-being in NZ”.