Atua Wahine - Mana Wahine. A Whakapapa Expressed Through the Physical Activity of Māori Women in Contemporary Aotearoa
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Physical activity, as a health behaviour, is known to contribute to improvements in health, both physical and psychological. However, physical activity also has the potential to contribute to a better understanding of people who engage in it, especially those whose experiences aren’t already widely explored. In this research, physical activity was a vehicle for coming to know the ways of being and doing of nineteen active wāhine Māori, and their whakapapa to atua wāhine – feminine deities represented in the natural environment. This research was informed and implemented by an intersecting method(ological) framework of Whakapapa, Mana Wahine, and Korikori Tinana – Te Kupenga o te Kaupapa. This framework was purposefully constructed to gather mātauranga wahine, but it also became a mechanism for storing and displaying that mātauranga. The research asked: what are the attributes of physically active Māori women, and how do they connect to the attributes of atua wāhine? The kōrero and korikori (conversations and activity) methods allowed a way to answer those questions that resonated with what it meant to be Māori, wahine, and physically active in these challenging contemporary times. They also provided a unique way for wāhine to demonstrate their personality, physicality, and whakapapa expressions to atua. The findings of this research are presented as five metaphorical categories, or huahuatau. Ko au te taiao, ko te taiao ko au explores the way wāhine described ‘environmental transactions’ – these included connections to, reflections of, and the range of exchanges that wāhine experienced with different environments (natural and otherwise). Ahuwhenua describes the way wāhine demonstrated purposeful planning, creativity, and being resourceful in their cultivation of success. Ngā taonga tuku iho explores the different ways that wāhine were committed to moving mātauranga from one to another – learning, teaching, and sharing knowledge. Rakanga Waewae relates to a sense of dynamic balance, where wāhine demonstrate skilful ‘footwork’ in their many roles and responsibilities. Finally, Poipoia te kākano kia puāwai, repurposes a whakataukī and explores an acknowledgement of potential and a commitment to its realisation. Each of these huahuatau provide a blueprint for understanding how wāhine and their mana are inextricably (inter)connected with the mana of atua wāhine. Through Te Kupenga o te Kaupapa, this research provides a mechanism for gathering the stories of wāhine, storing them for future generations, and (re)telling them in a way that celebrates their mana. It shows us that wāhine are carriers of (extra)ordinary knowledge and capabilities, and that those skills are woven into our physical and metaphysical make up – through te whare tangata. Essentially, this research brings to the fore the contemporary successes of wāhine Māori, within the context of physical activity. It prioritises and champions the voices of wāhine Māori in a purposeful way. From the structure of this thesis to the stories and interpretations that bring shape to its message, the intention was to cultivate an expression of whakapapa. In that process of cultivation, this research provides unique contributions to methodology, method, and provides a framework for wāhine to position themselves, in a mana-enhancing way.