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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Aroha by Dr Hinemoa Elder

Aroha - Maori wisdom for a contented life lived in harmony with our planet by Dr Hinemoa Elder.

Shortlisted for the NZ Booklovers Lifestyle Award 2021.

There’s a lightness of being to every aspect of this beautiful, contemporary book which continues from the cover, throughout the contents. All this, despite its very deep roots in Aotearoa’s very own ancient wisdom.

Aroha is described as a hardback, but it is anything but. The extraordinary design of the book gives it a weightless feel, unlike any other hardback book I’ve held. Not that it feels flimsy, but this paradox of design is exceptionally clever.

The cover – copper and green – speaks to me of the colours of a crisp koru. And the copper engravings speak of our land and people.

In these many ways, the book firmly establishes itself as quintessentially of us. And coming as it does at a time when we have been unified by Covid and have expressed a common desire to go forward better than before, and as one people, this is a book of its time.

I have long been an advocate for compulsory Te Reo in primary schools. My argument is that Te Reo is the language of our first people. But I have also argued that it is a great deal more than a language.

It is a way of living, which – to my mind – offers us an environmental and spiritual path to which we can relate in a way that the Christian faith lacks and which has more relevance to us in Aotearoa than that which some of us have sought in other teachings – say - Buddhism.

As one who was raised an Anglican, I was steeped in that faith until my teens when I began to search for something which had greater meaning for the path I was treading. I found that in the teachings of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, which dates back to 4 BC.

Little did I understand until Hinemoa’s stunning little book came into my hands that Māori proverbs - whakataukī – have been handed down through the generations to provoke thoughtful meditation and give comfort in a similar way to Tao Te Ching.

When the book arrived, I had scarcely read it when I offered it to a neighbour to enjoy. She passed it on to her daughter who is currently completing her PhD in Rongopai. My young neighbour became so immersed in the book that when it was reluctantly returned some weeks later, her attachment was so great, she was off to buy her own copy.

I predict that anyone who reads this book will experience such joy, comfort and illumination in the pages that they too will find that Aroha will become an extension of their daily life. And that will be no bad thing.

Reviewer: Peta Stavelli

Penguin Random House


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