This Theatre Marae project seeks to unravel the shame and hurt that clouds and distorts the subjects of ngau whiore (sexual abuse) and whakamomori (suicide).
Writer Helen Pearse-Otene (PhD) is a registered and practising psychologist and Jim Moriarty MNZM is a registered psychiatric nurse.
For the past 20 years Jim and Helen have been working with survivors, perpetrators and family members affected by trauma as a programme facilitators, group therapists, researchers and registered mental health professionals.
As part of a kaupapa Māori community research project hosted by Massey University and Kōkiri Marae, Jim and Helen worked with a group of men, women and whānau members who were sexually harmed by family members, in response-based practices, to explore ways of moving forward.
Jim and Helen have brought this work to the rehearsal room floor as directors with Te Rākau Theatre. The Swing is the creative outcome of the group's work together.
Kaupapa Māori services
Through the story of one whānau dealing with incest and suicide, mirrored by the the pūrakau of Tāne Mahuta and Hine Nui Te Po, The Swing takes a detailed, researched and caring account of one family’s attempt to manage ngau whiore and navigate a process of restoration.
For most Māori drawn to group settings Jim and Helen have worked in, experiences of 1:1 talk therapies are reported as negative, retraumatising, judgmental and culturally irrelevant.
Kaupapa Māori group based therapies and holistic services that are provided in Māori communities – such as Iwi social services – are effective but underfunded (or not funded at all), and do not meet the standards for ACC sensitive claims services.
More recent studies in what works best in trauma therapies complements traditional Māori practices that invoke body-oriented and group-based approaches to healing.
This has informed our current research on applying the healing and educational potential of pūrākau in the context of the whare tapere (traditional house of entertainment).
'The Swing is a powerful and profound call for meaningful action; haunting and healing.'
-lynda chanwai-earle for theatreview
The initial development of The Swing attracted positive feedback about the value and necessity of such a project.
Te Rākau has worked with the original participants and additional communities to present The Swing:
As a play it weaves the pūrākau of Tānemahuta and Hinetītama to portray a whānau struggling to recover from the shadow of ngau whiore and whakamomori.
As a community based rangahau project it brings community members together to process their lived experiences and research the resonance of the pūrākau through a Māori performance practice.
As an event it opens a public space for communities to connect with the wider community, organisations, policy makers and experts tasked with addressing incest, child abuse, family violence and suicide in Aotearoa-NZ.
As a development experience it strengthens participants' understanding of complex issues in our community, creating a safe and enriching space to grow cultural capability and responsiveness.
Work with us
We would like to work with communities who need this kōrero brought into the light – prisons, marae, social services, hauora providers, Government agencies and training institutions, mental health hui and regional festivals to name a few.
We believe there is an urgent need for strategies, resources, and hands-on engagement to address these issues. Get in touch with us now to discuss how The Swing can help open a conversation for your community.