20 Oct 2014

Haka and poi to help stroke survivors

8:25 am on 20 October 2014


Haka and poi are to be used to rehabilitate stroke survivors in Britain.

Manaia Maori Cultural Group. Its managing director Karl Burrows is at the front wearing a traditional cloak.

Manaia Maori Cultural Group. Its managing director Karl Burrows is at the front wearing a traditional cloak. Photo: Manaia

A London-based company, Manaia, is working with Britain's New Zealander of the year, Eric Tracey and the UK Stroke Association charity to discover how Māori culture and the haka can be used to support and empower stroke survivors.

Mr Tracey said he was inspired by the Ngāti Ranana group while he was at the New Zealand Society Annual dinner, when he received his award, and approached Manaia's director, Karl Burrows, about using the haka in a therapy programme.

Eric Tracey.

Eric Tracey. Photo: Idealog

"I was so blown away by Ngāti Rānana haka group there so I later bid in an auction prize. Karl Burrows had donated a prize and that was for it (Manaia) to teach 30 people the haka. I then went to him and said I have this idea that I would like to do it for stroke survivors, because I've seen how music can bring people almost back to life," he said.

"I asked him (Karl Burrows) if that would be all right I was a bit nervous and Karl - he was very emotional he thought it was the most wonderful idea."

Manaia's managing director, Karl Burrows, of Ngāti Maru, Te Ātiawa and Whanganui iwi descent, admits he was initially apprehensive with Mr Tracey's suggestion, but then he realised although the haka is quite a physical expression, it can be mentally soothing.

"I suppose we had concerns you know when we got asked to do this because people who've had stroke have physical disabilities sometimes and you think of haka as quite a strong physical expression and you think of the All Blacks - that's the example we're given all the time." he said.

"But, I think if we can help people to connect with 'ihi' (physical force) and 'wehi' (awe) - their energy within inside themselves in a spiritual sense then I think we've gone a long way."

Nita Brown.

Nita Brown. Photo: Stroke Foundation of New Zealand

The national Māori health advisor for the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand, Nita Brown of Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Pukenga and Ngāti Koroki Kahukura descent said if the unique therapy programmes went well in Britain, the Stroke Foundation would consider introducing it for stroke survivors here as well.

"I'm so excited and hoping that one day very soon with lots of success stories from the UK that it (kapa haka therapy) can come back here and that it will just filter back to Aotearoa and we will see a lot more kapa haka supporting people living with stroke."

Nita Brown said besides helping to redevelop a stroke survivor's co-ordination and cognitive skills, kapa haka provided a social outlet.

"Kapa haka itself encompasses so many different things and so many different aspects from socialising with other people which is really, really critical for a person's well-being, she said.

"It's strongly encouraged that throughout that whole (rehabilitation) process that social interaction is encouraged because it is needed on a daily basis whether they (stroke survivors) realise that or not."

A video will be filmed next month to demonstrate how the kapa haka therapy can be used.

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