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Mouri Tu, Mouri Moko, Mouri Ora! Moko as a wellbeing strategy

This research has been undertaken within the Health Research Council funded International Collaborative Indigenous Health Research Partnership (ICIHRP) program, “The role of resiliency in responding to blood borne viral and sexually transmitted infections in Indigenous communities”. Some Indigenous communities in Australia, New Zealand and Canada have been shown to experience higher rates of blood borne viral infections. There are a number of categories of health intervention that have been shown to be effective in prevention and enhancing access to treatment for blood borne viral infections, including various forms of health promotion, enhanced diagnostic and treatment services, and harm reduction measures related to injecting drug use. The present research was undertaken with the understanding that development of effective responses of this kind among Indigenous people would benefit from a better understanding of the social and cultural factors that might protect against these infections and their consequences. It is argued that such factors are linked in various ways to Indigenous resistance and resiliency, which is described as the means by which people choose to make use of individual and community strengths to protect themselves against adverse health outcomes and enhance their health and wellbeing. In this thesis I explore how people and their identity are affected when you are part of a marginalised or vulnerable population – namely, Māori women who have contracted the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). I argue that traditional knowledge and healing practices are central to Māori getting well and keeping well, and that the use of cultural frameworks and practices have potentially restorative, therapeutic and healing values that are not yet researched or understood by the health field. I argue that a Māori framework of wellbeing, namely ‘Mana Kaitiakitanga’, provides the context in which tā moko (Māori traditional tattoo) fits naturally as a healing intervention. I share the stories of Māori women with HCV who have applied this (tā moko and other forms of tattoo) in their lives and in their journeys back to wellness. Tā moko is a process that penetrates the flesh and marks the skin; it is a process that involves both blood and pain, which may seem incongruous with healing. It is argued however that through pain comes understanding; through pain comes a RE-membering of strength; through pain comes joy; and finally through marking comes identity of who we are and how well we have been and can be again. Issues and intersections of identity, marginalisation, gender, health, and wellbeing are at the forefront of this research story and of the journeys of the three women whose case studies are presented in this thesis. What makes this thesis unique is that it researches all three of these potential cornerstones of health: identity; wellbeing (spiritual and emotional), and physical wellbeing, in relation to a specific health problem, namely HCV. It is intended that this work will add power to what might be viewed as a particularly Indigenous solution to a virus that disproportionately affects our Indigenous population. This is not about rejecting Western health solutions, but it is about recognising and returning to Indigenous health solutions.
Type of thesis
Penehira, M. (2011). Mouri Tu, Mouri Moko, Mouri Ora! Moko as a wellbeing strategy (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5945
University of Waikato
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