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Te waiata a Hinetitama—hearing the heartsong: Whakamate i roto i a Te Arawa— A Māori suicide research project

Tepora Emery, Candy Cookson-Cox, Ngāmaru Raerino


Contrary to contemporary views of the act of whakamate (suicide), traditional Māori tribal pedagogies have revealed that the death of an individual by suicide was not considered a shameful or cowardly act; rather it was viewed in its full context. The person was considered to have been impacted by a state of whakamomori (overwhelming sadness and depression) and kahupō (spiritual blindness). Viewed in this context, in the time of our ancestors, premature death through suicide was considered a human tragedy and loss of potential and was thus treated with understanding, compassion and aroha (love). Drawing on traditional Māori pedagogies contained within tribal waiata mōteatea (laments), this paper presents an example of how the wisdom traditions of Māori tribal elders can inform contemporary suicide postvention interventions. The traditions are also shown to support whānau (family) recovery from unresolved grief situations including the (modern) stigma associated with the death of a loved one to whakamate.

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Print ISSN 1177-1801 Online ISSN 1174-1740