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Healing Hikoi: From The River To The States

Healing Hikoi: From The River To The States

The healing force of the Whanganui River travels to the USA with a group of Maori mental health survivors in the moving new documentary KO WHANGANUI TE AWA (Pakipumeka Aotearoa, Wednesday October 4 at 8.30 PM)

Award-winning documentary maker Jim Marbrook follows Marius, Ainsley and Fabion on a life-changing trip to Arizona, where they share their message of hope and healing after mental illness and addiction with native Americans.

The key to their recovery was spending time on and around Whanganui River, where they re-connected with the elements that make up the 'whole person' - soul, mind, body and whanau.

This inspirational Maori model of health and wellbeing is the taonga the group - Nga Tangata O Te Ao Marama (people of new beginnings) - takes to the Arizona tribes.

"I have a moemoea, a dream, to do this hikoi and tell others how important our river, te awa, is to healing," says Fabion, whose illness was so severe at times that his brothers would tie him up so he couldn't hurt himself.

"I used the inner seed my family planted in me, the wairua, to bring me out of that hell hole," he tells a conference in Arizona.

For Marius, a recovering alcoholic, it's a chance to share how connecting with the forest, mountain and river helped ease the pain of his addiction.

But the stress of being away from home increases the risk of the three becoming unwell. Group coordinator Manny Down, of Te Oranganui Health in Wanganui, monitors them but as time ticks by, the distance takes its toll.

Will the stresses of meetings and miles on the road increase the chances of one of the group becoming unwell?

Jim Marbrook's documentary Dark Horse, about a Gisborne speed chess champ who lives with Bipolar Disorder, won Best Feature Documentary at the 2005 DOCNZ International Film Festival last year.

To make KO WHANGANUI TE AWA, he had to multi-task as director, cameraman, and lighting and sound engineer in the USA.

"It was a privilege for me to go along with these inspirational people," he says. "There were immediate connections made when they met the Native Americans, especially the Yavapai Apache, who are also a river tribe. Rivers have a spiritual significance to both. It was very moving to share in such a special journey."

As a parting gift, Nga Tangata O Te Ao Marama left the Yavapai Apache a Tino Rangatiratanga flag they had brought from Aotearoa.

It still flies in the grounds of their reservation today.

Take a spiritual hikoi to the USA when KO WHANGANUI TE AWA screens in Maori Television's Pakipumeka Aotearoa slot on Wednesday October 4 at 8.30 PM.


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