Wāhine Māori returning to ruku kai

Our journey alongside Kaimoana Queens began in July 2023 as we prepared for the first wānanga at Te Whakamaharatanga Marae, Waimamaku. Led by founders Hayley Taotua and Karis Vesey, a group of wāhine Māori from, or living in, the Hokainga prepared for the wānanga: organising kai, vans, the dive gear and fishing rods. 40 wāhine attended the first wānanga, with groups arriving from as far away as Whakatāne, to share their experiences with ruku kaimoana. It was beautiful to be reminded through the kōrero that wāhine have long been kairuku within their whānau. Certainly in the Hokianga we have heard stories of ancestors only two generations passed, walking out of the ocean with several crayfish clinging to a woollen vest.

The assumption that only or mostly Tāne are the divers within whānau is a cultural illusion. As with all things Māori, tikanga is localised, grounded in the context of whānau, hapū and marae, and in the capacity of ahi kā. A number of wahine spoke in particular of their upbringings during which they were the divers of their whānau. Having tamariki and, coupled with the expectations around women’s roles as caregivers and assumptions that it is mostly men that ruku kaimoana, many wahine simply did not return to the practice of ruku kai.

It has been so beautiful to see, from kuia to pakeke to rangatahi, collectives of wāhine returning to the ocean as a place from which they have always intergenerationally gathered kaimoana, found strength in community, or space to whakawātea. The normalisation once more of wāhine as kai gatherers in the north has been a beautiful sight to see. When wāhine are equipped with the support and knowledge to dive and fish, they feed communities, they pass their knowledge on through generations and importantly they keep wāhine safe on and off the water. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to Kaimoana Queens for the visions of community you provide.

Click here to see the Kai Moana Queens Wānanga from November 2023 on Te Karere.