Entertainment | Ria Hall

Ria Hall’s documentary calls for support for Māori māmā

Māori māmā are twice as likely than any other nationality to die during pregnancy and are 3.35 times more likely to commit suicide, which is the leading cause of death among pregnant women in Aotearoa.

Ria Hall (Ngāi te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) who has just announced her mayoral campaign for Tauranga, has released a documentary called It Takes a Kāinga in dedication to Māori māmā and kahu pōkai - Māori midwives.

Hall reflects in the documentary on her own trials and tribulations as a single mother of three, and how she’s plunged into dark spaces that at the time she wasn’t sure she could get out of.

Gloria Grace (Ngāti Ranginui, Kai Tahu) kaimahi for maternal mental health reflects on her hardships, the confronting reality of admitting feelings of suicidal ideation, and then understanding how those feelings for people could be coupled to the fear of having their baby uplifted if they were to admit that.

Systemic racism and colonisation

Indigenous rights advocate Tina Ngata (Ngāti Porou) discusses the scientific racism of early science that fabricated myths of scientific supremacy, which she says created the basis of current health science.

“If you look at the health outcomes for Māori today, you can see that Māori are more likely to be refused pain relief in this health system because of the racist medical myth that we don’t really need pain relief. Today you see that Māori māmās will lose more blood on the birthing table than non-Maori māmās before they take action, and are therefore more likely to die from blood loss.”

Traditional birther and tohunga ruahine Awhitia Mihaere (Ngāti Kahungunu) says Hinenuitepō has different consciousnesses and in the different pō are the depression states of being that these māmā experience. Mihaere says people believe the act of whakamomori, suicide, is selfish “but it’s because there is no space, place and time in this ao that really looks after those who whakamomori”.

“It’s hard, to think about all of the wāhine, all of the sacrifice, all of the lives taken, knowing that that is the intent of the system that is still in place now,” Ngata says.

The documentary discusses how colonisation is a cause of the issues Māori māmas face, the loss of cultural practices and mātauranga. It takes a village to raise a child, yet many mothers have to do it alone.

Intergenerational healing and mana motuhake

Māori midwife Aroha Harris (Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Kahu, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) says she wants to focus on intergenerational healing and mana motuhake.

Waiora Wall discusses how she and her whānau exercise mana motuhaka through bringing back pre-colonial Māori birthing traditions. Their main goal is to revive the awa, their puhinui for birthing in future generations “I think it saved me, taking my mana motuhake back, it really saved me, I feel like it’s made me who I am,” Waiora says.

Awhitia Mihaere runs wānanga that work with the atua Hinenuitepō, Hinetītama, and Hineteiwaiwa which are the atua who protect wāhine throughout their pregnancy, “and through that they are able to see the mother as a beautiful human being, like a goddess.”

“As hapū māmā there is a tapu associated to you that is about your connection to your whakapapa and you providing another layer of whakapapa,” says Tina Ngata, “We constantly reiterate to her, that she is sacred, that she has a special place in our community, in our society, it was a beautiful time of our process of bringing children into our world, and it was connected to taiao.”

The documentary evokes a lot of painful and relatable experiences but it also highlights the importance of re-indigenisation and reclamation of mana motuhake for the future.

Hall has also teamed up with Kia Ora Māmā, which is a Facebook page run by Kahurangi Milne and Arataua Media for māmā who need a safe space and community online.