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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Dr Hinemoa Elder talks about Aroha

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Dr Hinemoa Elder has lived on Waiheke Island for 21 years. She is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, working at the Child and Family Unit at Starship Hospital, in Auckland. She is also a Maori Strategic Leader for the Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) for the Ageing Brain. Dr Hinemoa Elder talks to NZ Booklovers about Aroha, the winner of the NZ Booklovers Lifestyle Award 2021.

Tell us a little about your book.

My book brings together my experiences as a Māori woman, mum, doctor and student of our language. I have found the power of whakataukī and whakatauākī, Māori proverial sayings, many of them ancient, have helped me with the ups and downs of life. This book is my attempt to share that with others in the hope that these sayings open up meaningful connections within, with others and with our relationship with our planet. Creating an inviting and hopefully useful resource for people that upholds our culture and shows the potency of Te Reo Māori me ōna tikanga has been literally a labour filled with aroha, fierce pasion, protection, compassion, desire and yes love too.

What inspired you to write this book?

Te Wharehuia Milroy’s teachings inspired and continue to inspire me. Our language, our culture and the way that short pithy observations that our tūpuna, our ancestors made continue to provide such salient wisdom in today’s complex world.

What research was involved?

I had been collecting whakataukī and whakatauākī (those where we know the originator) for some years through attendance at Kura Reo, total immersion reo wānanga, and writing my own brief reflections. I went back though these many times and this stimulated recalling others along the way.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I love to write in the mornings and get up a good head of steam with that fresh vibrant energy. The process of listening to the dawn chorus as I write and feeling the light edging over the horizon is a karakia in itself alongside my own whisperings. Returning to writing and reworking the flow and polishing the words and phrases as I hear the kōrero in my mind when I am home after work feels so satisfying, this writing is the bookends of my day.

If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

Hirini Melbourne, Hinewehi Mohi, Ria Hall, Anna Coddington, Troy Kingi and The Modern Māori Quartet. There are 52 potential tracks! 53 if you count the whakatauāki I ask the reader to write for themselves. They can choose their own music!

What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

The sense of connection to those who have gone before and those who come after us. An unforgettable feeling of being part of whakapapa.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Walked around the garden, a few phone calls and a strong cup of tea with the whānau. And then a glass of bubbles.

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

Hiakai, it is such a spectacular and loving unwrapping of our Māori kai story by the inimitable Monique Fiso.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

Ongoing mahi as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, researcher, report writer, I love seeing my patients they inspire me everyday, my work whānau, working for my own iwi, advocating for the Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland Arts Festival, creativity is such a vital part of well being. Doing my small part to try and make the world a better place.


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