Smear Your Mea riders make it to the pōhiri for Te Matatini 2023

Bicycles were the mode of transport for one group at Te Matatini, and women's health was the goal rather than performing.

The Smear Your Mea campaign has been running for five years now to promote cervical screening. This week, cyclists, both men and women, rode a distance of 645km from Wellington to Auckland to raise awareness.

Despite a setback caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, they made it.

“The first day when the storm struck was the worst and I mourn all the lives we lost during the storm. The next day it cleared up, and the roads were opened, there was a bit of wind, but we made it, without too much drama because this campaign is important to us,” campaign leader Te Ururoa Flavell says.

Statistics show Māori women have a higher burden of cervical-related disease than non-Māori women and also have much lower screening coverage, so what better way to bring awareness to this than bringing it to Te Matatini?

“In Hamilton, we were welcomed by Te Pou o Mangatāwhiri but what was awesome was the Māori communities who opened up the doors to their houses for us to rest, sleep and eat,” Flavell says.

“There was also a mobile testing truck available where women could get checked. I believe the number of Māori women getting tested using the mobile service has increased, so I am relieved that that project has been achieved.”

“I also know that Smear Your Mea has been extended, that the hand of Ride 4 Talei is now here to bring this project to the front of the kapa haka world, so that we don't just talk about the project but we have to implement that project, that's the important thing.”

Flavell says the ‘Smear Your Mea’ campaign was established in 2017 by Talei Morrison, a kapa haka performer for Te Matarae i ō Rehu in Rotorua, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer but died a year later. Morrison had wanted to use her diagnosis to be a way to raise awareness for performers, their whānau and their communities.

“This morning, the sun shone, and we are safe and we have arrived, there is nothing more to say than that. We have reached Te Matatini, and all we can say is that's it, that's it for now.”