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Whakarongo ki ō Tūpuna: Listen to your Ancestors – Book Review

Whakarongo ki ō Tūpuna: Listen to your Ancestors

Joseph, D., & Te Whata, M. (2019). New Zealand: Oratia Books.

This picture book centres around how a teacher guides her granddaughter and her pupils to walk the path of their ancestors/tūpuna. In Māori tradition all living things were linked through whakapapa. The story teaches children to be strong, kind, patient, brave, respectful and positive and connects these traits to their ancestors.

Kia māia, e tama mā, e hine mā kia kaua rā koutou e murirere. Tūria te tū a tō koutou tupuna, a Tū-te-ihiihi. Be brave, boys and girls, there's no need to panic. Stand tall like your ancestor. The most-awe-inspiring-of-them-all.

Eventually the teacher gets old and the roles are reversed. It is now her granddaughter who becomes the teacher. Because of this she can use her teaching to guide and comfort her grandmother.

Ka nui taku aroha mōu, e kui. Kia kaua rā koe e mokemoke. Haere tāua ki tō tāua tupuna, ki a Tāne-whakapiripiri.  I love you lots nan. You don’t have to be lonely. Let’s go to our ancestor, Tāne who keeps us close together.

Eventually her nan passes on and she is returned to the land.

Kia kaha e kui, e pai ana, kia kaua rā tāua e wehi. Nāu anō te kī, ki a tāua te Māori, ka hoki tatou katoa kit e poho o tō tatou tupuna, o Papatūānuku. Be strong, Nan, it’s okay let’s not be scared. As you said, it’s our belief, we all return to the care of our ancestor, The Great Earth Mother.

In Māori tradition Papatūānuku is the land. After the earth emerged from water, it gave birth to all life. Trees, birds and humans emerge from the land and are nourished by it. Figuratively, humans are born from the womb of Papatūānuku, and return there after death.  After the tangi it is time for new beginnings. We see her granddaughter now taking over the mantle. She is ready to follow in the footsteps of her nan and start the teaching all over again.

This beautiful picture book demonstrates how Māori have a direct connection with the natural world, the earth, the sea, the land and the sky. It also shows the respect for those that have passed on their knowledge to the younger generation and the importance of doing this.

“kia mau koe ki nga kupu o ou tūpuna”

“Hold fast to the words of your ancestors”.

Reviewed by Wharepaoro Christie, Kaiwhakarite Māori Development Specialist, MHF



This beautiful picture book is written in te reo Māori and English. The rhythm of the words make it a great book to read out loud. It starts with an invite to rest, pause and connect:

Kia tau, e hine mā, e tama mā, kia kaua tātou e manawapā.

Mātakina te pōteretere haere o ngā kapua o tō koutou tupuna, o Ranginui e tū nei.  Relax now, girls and boys, and don’t stress out. Look up to the swiftly passing clouds cloaking your ancestor, The Majestic Sky Father.

A true story underlies this – in June 2016, Massey University Language Lecturer, Darryn Joseph spent time in a hospital room minding a teacher who’d became a good friend and mentor to him. Darryn wrote her a poem of appreciation, kissed her hand and said goodbye. The next day she passed away.

The first half of the story shows a teacher looking after children, showing them how to let go of anger, anxiety and stress, stand strong and tall, and spend time in nature, linking with ancestors. In the second half, the teacher has become old and now her granddaughter reminds her of the lessons:

Kia kaha, e kui, e pai ana, kia kaua rā tāua e wehi.

Nāu anō te kῙ, ki a tāua te Māori, ka hoki tātou katoa ki te poho o tō tātou tupuna, o Papatūānuku. Be strong, Nan, it’s okay – let’s not be scared. Earth Mother.

The teacher dies. The granddaughter looks after her whānau, sharing the lessons with them. If your whānau is experiencing grief and loss and you’re looking for ways to reflect on the journey of life with your young ones, this book is helpful. The words are supported by colourful images that create space for further kōrero. I say young ones – however this book is a true classic with messages for all ages and stages. And if you’re keen to practise te reo Māori, it helps with that too.

Reviewed by Virginia Brooks, MHF Community Engagement & Health Promotion Specialist. MHF

Rāhina / Monday

Reconnect with yourself

Connecting with yourself is a skill. To start the week, begin by taking a moment to check in with yourself, acknowledge how you’re feeling and how the last few years of turbulence affected you and your connection with others and the world around you. This is a good time to think about the people you have lost contact with who you might want to reach out to, or the special places you haven’t visited in a while, and set some whāinga/goals for the week ahead.

At the end of the week, you can reflect on how you felt at the start and how reconnecting with the people and places that are special to you has lifted you up.

A few ideas for reconnecting with yourself:

Rātū/ Tuesday

Reconnect with a friend or loved one

We know life can get busy, but feeling connected to the people that are important to us can make a big difference to our mental health. Connection brings purpose and belonging to our lives and makes us feel happier and more secure. Today is about reconnecting with the people in our lives – it could be someone special who you have lost touch with or just wish you caught up with more often.

A few ideas for reconnecting with a friend or loved one:

Rāapa / Wednesday

Reconnect with a special place

The places and spaces we spend our time in have a huge impact on how we feel. Most of us have places we can go that calm, inspire or uplift us. Today, make time to go to a place that is special to you and take notice of how you feel when you are there. For some of us, the special place that comes to mind might be out of reach - perhaps it’s overseas, or too far away to get to. Even if we can’t get there right now, there are ways that we can reconnect with the places that lift us up.

A few ideas for reconnecting with a special place:

Rāpare / Thursday

Reconnect with your community.

Today is about reconnecting with your hapori whānui/wider community. It’s the perfect time to sign up to be a volunteer or join a local community group, but it could also be as simple as making the effort to reconnect with the people you interact with every day. Today is all about savouring the little hononga/connections that make us human.

A few ideas for reconnecting with your community:

Rāmere / Friday

Reconnect with nature

To round out the week, we’re asking you to reconnect with the beautiful taonga that is te taiao/the natural environment. Studies show exposure to nature not only makes us feel better emotionally, it contributes to our physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. All the more reason to spend at least a small moment today outside - breathing in some fresh air and noticing the world around you.

A few ideas for reconnecting with nature: