In an episode that is close to Kahu’s heart, we talk about how mātauranga Māori might help us find solutions and understanding on suicide prevention, hope and community. Episode three emerges, much as everything does, from within Te Pō.

Content warning: 
Includes discussion of suicide and mental health. You'll find contacts for where to get help at the bottom of this page.

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Check out more episodes of He Kākano Ahau here. 

Ahi Kōmau
by Briar Pomana

Kahu takes He Kākano up Matahi Valley Road Photo: UGP / Melody Thomas

Ahi Kōmau - the eternal flame, the deep-rooted fires such as those found in volcanoes and with our atua Rūaumoko. Back in the day, our tīpuna would bury the ashes of their fires in the ground and even when the people who had lit them had shifted and moved on across the land, the buried ashes continued to burn. When the time came, upon their return, the ahi kōmau were unearthed and re-distributed upon a new flame and the fire would dance strongly and burn bright once again.

The kaikōrero of this episode of He Kākano Ahau are similar to ngā ahi kōmau. They are that spark and breathe of hope onto a buried flame.

Beginning in the big smoke, Kahu Kutia travels between Tāmaki Makaurau and Te Urewera to speak to people working in the realm of mental health and whānau Māori, specifically people working closely with the taniwha that is whakamōmori.

Rikki Solomon, an embalmer and funeral director based in Tāmaki Makaurau is researching and applying traditional mātauranga to his practice. He draws reference from the maramataka Māori, the study of the moon and stars in relation to how these influence human behaviour, actions and spirit.

"What we teach is whānau to find their balance in both of these worlds, '' says Solomon. "Then how healing and empowering it can be to reclaim that maramataka Māori. Certainly, for myself in the last three years, it changed my life really. To understand and be empowered when you're feeling certain ways on certain days."

Rikki Solomon in his workplace Photo: UGP / Dylan Cook

New Zealand has among the highest rates of youth suicide in the world. According to the 2020 Unicef Innocenti report card we come in at number two of the countries deemed 'developed' for suicide among youth aged 15-19.

New Zealand's high record of youth suicide is well known. According to the 2020 Unicef Innocenti report card New Zealand comes in number two on the table of countries deemed 'developed' for suicide rate among youth aged 5-19. The data shows that over a three year period, per 100,000 adolescents, there were 14.9 deaths linked to suicide.

Figures released by the Ministry of Health in 2019-2020 reveal rangatahi Māori are overrepresented within these statistics.

Most whānau are all too aware of these staggering statistics.

To reflect on this, Kahu takes this kaupapa back to the whānau, travelling to the valley that raised her to speak to her tuakana Emma Kutia in Waimana. Emma works with Kia Piki Te Ora, a programme that focuses on suicide prevention among Māori, operating in nine district health board regions.

A typical view on Matahi Valley Road Photo: UGP / Kahu Kutia

When asked about her dreams for the future of mental health in her region and whānau, Emma speaks of hope, saying, "I would love to not have a job because then I would know that my whānau would be able to advocate for themselves, they'd be able to support themselves, they do not need a middle man to do that for them, and they will have the kaha and the strength to know who they are."

Emma draws her plan for the future from the past. "To get our people to that place where I know they've been before, and we can do that again."

The impacts of suicide on Māori communities have long been talked and written about, social issues such as the higher rates of suicide among Māori are direct results of the structural oppression and hegemonic trauma of colonisation. Dr. Keri Lawson-Te Aho, senior lecturer of public health at Otago University, writes that suicide in Māori communities is often viewed through an individualistic lens-and these are conclusions often conducted by non-Māori.

In her article 'Reframing Māori Suicide Prevention in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Applying Lessons from Indigenous Prevention Research' Lawson Te Aho, discusses the role of hopelessness and the link between lack of hope, exposure to racism, violence and the enduring effects of colonisation among rangatahi Māori. She writes, these are all the impacts of colonial and structural violence against Māori and contribute to the risk of suicide in whānau and wider Māori communities.

Suicide and poor mental health have directly affected the whānau of musician and rapper Te Māramatanga, also known as Ranuimarz.

Ranuimarz and his son Photo: UGP / Dylan Cook

It's through his love of writing and expressing himself through his art that he feels the most relieved of that pain. Sharing his experiences through his music is Ranuimarz's chance to create a platform of support within his community. He speaks about this vulnerability and whānaungatanga with Kahu.

"I sort of rebuilt it just from me expressing it in music," says Ranuimarz. "It's a healing process as well for me. It really uplifted me in times where I needed it so for me to use that as an influence to speak about it and to reach out to other people that are going through it right now, it just makes me happy that I can help others get through it as well as my own self."

At home with Ranuimarz Photo: UGP / Dylan Cook

About He Kākano Ahau:

Kahu Kutia

Kahu Kutia Photo: UGP / Dylan Cook

After co-winning Best Episodic/Recurrent Podcast at the 2020 Voyager Media Awards, activist, writer and uri of Ngai Tūhoe, Kahu Kutia returns with season two. She leads a close-knit team across the motu in search of stories woven together by whakapapa and desire to be and exist bigger and better.

This season’s creative team also includes producer and editor, Melody Thomas, of the award-winning sex and sexuality podcast BANG!, journalist, producer and editor Frances Morton continues with He Kākano Ahau alongside producer and award-winning filmmaker Ursula Williams as the podcast’s executive producers. Te Hira Mayall-Nahi (Ngāti Whatua ki Kaipara, Te Rarawa) and Briar Pomana (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rakaipaaka), came on board in teina roles to assist with production.

Made with the support of NZ On Air

He Kākano Ahau: Wawatatia is a seven-episode series, including two episodes in te reo Māori. Our target audience is young Māori, but we hope the stories make space for everyone to listen in.

He Kākano Ahau: Wawatatia

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202
  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email
  • What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)
  • Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
  • Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
  • Healthline: 0800 611 116
  • Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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