Connecting through tākaro

08 May 2024

Wiremu Sarich, of Ngāpuhi and Te Rarawa descent, is passionate about ngā taonga tākaro Māori (traditional Māori games and pastimes). Based in the Far North, Wiremu works with people of all ages to unlock the power of play.

Wiremu Sarich's passion for stems from his carefree childhood in South Auckland and connection to te ao Māori through his whānau. Growing up, he would spend every weekend with his cousins. “Chucking a ball around”, he was in his happy place, and the best part was they were never short of a player.

“It wasn’t uncommon for me to hang out with 30, 50 or even 100 cousins all weekend. We always got together, and in a sense my child Māori worldview came from being raised by the wider whānau.”

Wiremu’s grandparents played an influential role in his life – he was grateful to be given the space to move around freely to explore his interests – which, unsurprisingly “always came down to play”.

Helping us stay connected

Bringing his “life experience” into the play space made sense to Wiremu, and for more than a decade he’s been working with schools to help tākaro regain its prominent place in Aotearoa.

I love sharing things I’ve learned from te ao Māori and bringing them to these spaces. All of the games have some kind of whakapapa or history or story behind them, so it’s a great way to share narratives from within a tribe or an iwi to create connection to people and place.

One of the most popular games is  , which is played by two teams using a woven flax ball on a round field.

“It’s a very unique game because one team scores tries at the same time as the opposite, defending team throw a ball at a rock or a bin in the middle of the field. So they’re accumulating points by achieving two completely different goals.”

Once players understand the game, then they begin to unlock the deeper levels of knowledge that underpin it, says Wiremu.

“Kī-o-rahi stems from the legend of Rahitutakahina and Tiarakurapakewai. So, learning the pūrākau goes hand in hand with learning the game, which is a tribute to our tīpuna and our culture.”

Wiremu says a lot of tamariki he works with are “hands-on” learners, and taking part in tākaro is a great way for them to build their knowledge base.

The perfect tool to engage

No matter where whānau are on their reo Māori journey, Wiremu says play is a “powerful tool” to support them in their quest.

“Play is such a joyful thing, and if you win the kids over you win the parents over by default. Watching their kids flourish, it gives me a tool to pull parents into the space.”

“Recently I was at a kids' camp and I turned around and got all the parents up and we spent an hour just playing. Having kids and adults share the space in the same way is really special, and benefits the whole whānau.”