Healthy Families Rotorua is incorporating Māori systems regeneration into its Play space to get kids active.
New Zealand is the second most obese country in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), with 39% of our tamariki classified as overweight or obese.
Systems innovator, Mariana Vercoe, says many local children are not experiencing the organic play once enjoyed by previous generations.
“Play is a vital part of children’s physical and cognitive development and features in some of their earliest physical experiences. Unfortunately, times have drastically changed since our parents’ era where kids played outside until dark, climbed trees and swam in rivers,” says Mariana.
“Our kids are now glued to electronic devices from an early age, while the rising costs associated with recreational activities is unaffordable for many whānau.
“One in three Kiwi kids are obese or overweight, and more than a third are inactive. When we also factor in lack of time, health and safety restraints, societal changes, advancing technology, and insufficient adult awareness, it’s not surprising our children are overweight,” she says.
Mariana is keen to disrupt the system by integrating mātauranga Māori into the Play space. Traditionally tamariki Māori enjoyed manu aute and māra hūpara. Manu aute (kites) are covered with the bark of the aute plant; while māra hūpara utilise natural resources to create outdoor play spaces, such as strategically placed trees and rocks for climbing and exploring.
“Regenerating these kinds of practices means our kids can get out in the fresh air and connect with the taiao, just as our tūpuna did. It’s exciting,” says Mariana.
Healthy Families Rotorua Rautaki Māori, Jade Kameta, says everything our tūpuna did had intimate and holistic connection to the environment.
“Papa Rereata [Makiha] has more than 600 names of winds on paper – and is still to discover others. Revitalising Manu aute can help us advance this research, point us to the exact location of these winds, and help us reconnect directly with Tāwhirimatea.”
Jade says our tūpuna used manu aute for several reasons, such as identifying the different types of winds, forecasting weather, navigation, connecting with the winds during Matariki ceremonies, predicting the outcome of battle, communicating with different tribes, and as a taonga for kids to play with.
“Māori were once described as ‘the most physically perfect race on the planet’.
“French cartographer, Isaac Gilsemans, who came to Aotearoa with Abel Tasman, took sketches of his surroundings and his intricate drawings of muscular Māori supports this statement. He’d seen the rest of the world and other indigenous people before they reached Aotearoa – so he had a clue.”