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Jacques Lawinski

Jacques Lawinski

PhD candidate in philosophy and ecology at Université Paris VIII, visiting researcher in Lesvos, Greece. A writer, an activist, and an avid walker, I explore the planet and what it means to relate to nature, finding new, ecological ways of being.

AROHA: Māori wisdom for a contented life lived in harmony with our planet by Dr. Hinemoa Elder

Ebury Press/Penguin Random House, 2020.

An honest and open discussion of our relationship with nature through whakataukī – proverbs, in Te Reo Māori


Dr Hinemoa Elder is one of New Zealand’s most prominent academics and writers on te ao Māori, having published several books which both explore her own relationship with the Maori world, as well as introducing us as readers to Māori ways of thinking. Aroha is no different; through many whakataukī (Māori proverbs), we understand how important harmony with nature is to Māori.

The first whakatauki in the book is “Tūwhitia te hopo!” – banish your fears! A great start to look at the challenges and nuances that Elder will bring in throughout the book. Hopo, in Māori, she explains, does not just mean fear, but also “trepidation, a sinking feeling of dread.” We express emotions differently in different cultures, and Elder uses this to start a conversation about how we express our emotions, reminding us to reflect on this, and be brave when sharing who we are, because this opens up new opportunities for connection.

Sometimes Elder asks us some very deep and personal questions. It’s easy to think, “well that’s a question I’ve got, so what’s the answer!?” Elder doesn’t provide us with answers, but through the whakataukī we can develop wisdom which will lead us to the answers we seek. By thinking about why Māori use these words to express a particular saying, we can understand connections and relationships that were previously unclear to us. This can help us to answer these tough questions.

As this is a book of phrases, you could read this a couple of pages per day, focusing on one whakataukī per day to inspire your day, or you could just read it as you would any other book, and stop when you’ve found a great whakataukī which you want to meditate on further. Or, if you’re not the type for reading books often, you could open it to a random page each time you remember that the book exists! However you choose to read it, this little green book will certainly remain in your thoughts for some time to come.

AROHA: Māori wisdom for a contented life lived in harmony with our planet by Dr. Hinemoa Elder is available from Paper Plus NZ here. Otherwise, check out your local bookshop and see if they have it in stock or can order it for you.

image Hinemoa Elder
Dr. Hinemoa Elder. Photo: Penguin Random House

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