Ngā Kare-ā-roto

by Te Huamanuka

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Tēnā koutou, Te Huamanuka here again. Current student of Te Wānanga Takiura o ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa. Perhaps the most valuable week in Term 1 was spent learning kupu about our Kare-ā-roto.

Kare – ripples, ā-roto – inside. In less poetic terms, our emotions.

Maybe it was the timing of the week – when we’d come far enough that te reo pākehā had just been banned from school grounds, or that tensions were high at home with me struggling to transition to school life. But gosh, kare-ā-roto came at the exact time I needed to learn new words to express my feelings.

If you’ve done some learning of te reo yourself, you may be familiar with the kupu: manawa, ngākau and whatumanawa. To me, these words were always lumped into the same category “heart”, but it wasn’t until a deep dive into ngā kare-a-roto that they started making sense.

Manawa – the physical heart that pumps blood around your body and keeps you alive.

Ngākau – the heart that feels, some believe it is in your heart, others your puku, your throat, your mind, te ate.

Whatumanawa – the holder of deep emotions. The part of you that you feels deep grief and deep love.

I happened to be reading a book about the body’s relationship to trauma at the time and stumbled across a paragraph on the vagus nerve. This nerve runs from the brain all the way to the abdomen. The diagram in my book showed the vagus nerve connected to all of the mentioned body parts above that people recognise as te ngākau. Whether I believe that in fact our ngākau and the vagus nerve are one in the same, I’m not too sure. But how crazy that I read that chapter the day we learnt about ngākau? And the main message I took from it was this: our tipuna knew. They didn’t need a fancy book or a psychologist.

And it got me thinking about how I start sessions in kura when teaching kapa haka. “Kei te pēhea koutou, kei te pēhea koe?” It’s important that the kids have responses they can say that are more than “kei te pai”. How often in life do we say we’re good in response to “how are you”, when in fact we are not? Funny how learning how to articulate things in a different language can make it easier to share. I love hearing “kei te pōuri ahau… kei te riri ahau… kei te hōhā ahau” from our tamariki. Even though those feelings are perhaps not the emotions we’d like our tamariki to be feeling, not only do they have the language to be able to describe it, they are using it! Let’s continue to equip our tamariki with these treasures.

I te ao Māori, kei te tino hirahira ngā kare-ā-roto.

At school, I continue to learn that we are deep feelers. Not only that, we are encouraged to feel deeply and now encourage others to be deep feelers too. It is in these feelings where the true beauty of a person, an experience and a culture lies. Our kare-ā-roto are so important to who we are and how we connect. To our children, to us as teachers and to our whānau, simply because we are human.

I’m grateful to have learnt the difference between the words that all used to mean “heart” to me. And I’m grateful to be gifted the chance to share my kare-ā-roto in a new way.

Discoveries like this are happening on the daily. So I’d like to place a humble plug for my kura here; if anyone is considering taking the plunge into full immersion, Takiura is definitely the place to go.

Te Huamanuka


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