Rongoā Māori | Māori Medicine Part 2

Rongoā Māori | Māori Medicine Part 2

Tēnā ano tātou – thank you for all of your support for last week’s blog! It is such an extraordinary privilege working with our Kaumatua and Kuia and sharing their kōrero with you. Feeding back the response from all the readers is ‘icing on the cake’.

Here is our next instalment by our Kuia, Rihia Kenny, about her experience of with Rongoā Māori. And don’t forget – next week you have the opportunity to meet with both Kuia Rihia and Te Waari here at Te Papa.

Where: Te Ihomatua Gallery, Level 4, Te Papa.

When: Friday 24th of October, 12.30pm – 1pm

Free entry


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Rihia Kenny & Te Waari Carkeek in Bush City. Photographer Michael Hall. © Te Papa & Ngāti Toa.

Rihia Kenny – Ngati Toa, Ngapuhi, Te Ati Awa

As a child, I was able to correctly identify and collect rongoa for my elders. The preparation and dispensing of rongoa medicines and treatment such as mirimiri (massage) and mahi wairua (karakia and spiritual healing) was not unusual to me.

I still remember vividly, the positive effects rongoa Maori had on the people who came for healing. I also remember as a teenager how quickly the practise seemed to ‘die out’ and people began visiting the local GP for western medicines.

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Gathering kawakawa. Photographer Michael Hall. © Te Papa & Ngāti Toa.
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Gathering kawakawa. Photographer Michael Hall. © Te Papa & Ngāti Toa.


Kawakawa tea with Sharlene Davis-Maota. Photographer Michael Hall. © Te Papa & Ngāti Toa.

I have worked in Health for over 30 years. In the late 1980’s, I noticed that the use of rongoa medicines was again returning and becoming popular. At that time, the late Te Awhina Riwaka was running weekly clinics at her home in Porirua. She invited people who were ill, and those willing to learn about rongoa, to attend her clinics. I gratefully seized the opportunity.

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Gathering kawakawa with Barbara Goodwin, Don Te Maipi, June Davis and Rihia Kenny. Photographer Michael Hall. © Te Papa & Ngāti Toa.

In December 2011, I became involved with a new National Governance body ‘Te Kahui Rongoa Trust’ which was established to protect, nurture and promote rongoa Maori. The Trust reminds us that rongoa is a taonga tuku iho (a precious gift) handed down to us as (kaitiaki) guardians, to pass on to future generations. It is important for us to create an environment that ensures our traditional knowledge and practices are upheld with respect and integrity.

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Gathering kawakawa with Barbara Goodwin. Photographer Michael Hall. © Te Papa & Ngāti Toa.

Today I feel obligated to safeguard the knowledge, and the cultural and intellectual property of Rongoa. My wish for the future is to gain acceptance and support among medical practitioners of Aotearoa.

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Rihia Kenny in Bush City. Photographer Michael Hall. © Te Papa & Ngāti Toa.


For more information about Te Kahui Rongoa Trust, go to

Mauri ora








  1. Many thanks for you generosity in sharing with those of us lucky enough to hear you talk at Te Papa today.

  2. thanks for the tips, very useful!

  3. Nga mihi aroha. What a privilege for us at Te Papa.

  4. Rawe! I love this blog! Last year I used kawakawa on my pakaru knee and within two days I was able to walk upstairs with much less pain. Thank you Khali and Whaea Rihia for this wonderful blog. Nga mihi aroha ki a korua.

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