This article was first published on November 25, 2021. It was republished to celebrate International Women's Day on March 8, 2024.

Qiane Matata-Sipu is a journalist, photographer and social activist. Her project Nuku involved interviewing 100 indigenous women.

Qiane Matata-Sipu

Image credit: Becky Moss

It started when she was pregnant with her daughter in 2018, and initially involved just 10 wāhine. Their stories, and Qiane’s own experiences - including her part in the land occupation at Ihumātao and becoming a mother - inspired her to do more. 

A few years later, and mid-pandemic, she celebrated interviews with 100 indigenous women. Their stories are documented through the Nuku podcast and book. 

Re: talked to Qiane about five key things she learnt from that journey. 

Dr Ngahuia Murphy

Image credit:Qiane Matata-Sipu

“We yearn for the Atua wāhine because they yearn for us.” - Dr Ngahuia Murphy

1. Ka mua, ka muri / You have to look back in order to look forward

Qiane: The first thing is my favorite whakatauki (proverb) is Ka mua, ka muri, you have to look back in order to look forward.

Every wāhine that I spoke to wanted a better future for themselves, for their tamariki (children), their mokopuna (grandchildren), for the planet. 

But we have to look back at the stories of our tupuna, at the way they once lived - our indigenous systems are the blueprint for living well.

We can use those lessons, and that blueprint to create something better. To try and get us out of this real Western system of living that’s deteriorating us and our planet.

Dr Karlo Mila

Image credit: Qiane Matata-Sipu

2. I am enough exactly as I am

Am I enough Indigenous? Am I enough Maori? If I don't wear moko kauae, if I don't speak my reo, if I don't live in my papa kāinga, am I enough? Am I enough wahine? Am I doing enough? Am I enough of a mother?

All of these questions that we have about ourselves and our enoughness, which are put on us by the outside world saying you're not enough and you have to do all of these things.

The ultimate kōrero coming out was that you are enough, exactly as you are. The atua, your tupuna, made you enough. 

Maia Mariner 

Image credit: Qiane Matata-Sipu

3. Our strength is in our indigeneity and whakapapa

We find strength in our whakapapa, we find strength in this quest to attain mana motuhake (self-sovereignty), we find strength in each other.

There's a pākehā whakāro: Community over competition. But actually, that's an indigenous kaupapa, it's an indigenous value and kōrero. 

We lift each other up and we bring each other together.

Regardless of whether they're Maori or Pasifika, wāhine have found strength in their indigeneity and in their whakapapa. 

Realise that when you seek that and own that, you fill gaps within you that you didn't know you had, and it just makes you even stronger. 

Maata Wharehoka

Image credit: Qiane Matata-Sipu

4. We are successful when we are connected

Connectedness was probably the overriding theme because it also is the underlying purpose of Nuku, to connect us.

To achieve what we want to achieve, we have to be connected - connected with ourselves, with each other, and connected to our taiao (natural environment). 

The connection that we have with our taiao, not only allows us to respect our taiao more, but it makes us think what actions we take that affect our taiao. Unless you're connected to the taiao, you don't have those whakāro.

Ninakaye Taane-Tinorau

Image credit: Qiane Matata-Sipu

5. We have to be vulnerable to overcome the consequences of colonisation

Healing is what we need because we are still suffering the consequences of colonization. 

As indigenous wāhine, we have to heal ourselves, and the way we do that is by sharing what is really happening with each other. 

Instead of this whole western whakāro of it's embarrassing to share what's actually really going on in your life, no, when we connect in those really authentic ways and sit with our vulnerabilities, we heal. 

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