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Tohunga - Background


A Tohunga is a person who is open to understanding that life, dreams and death are merely a reflection of their own innate wisdom.


It is someone who is willing to embrace their inner wisdom, to break free of all cages, and realise that they are the creators and the creation of life and death.

Definition of Tohunga from Wikipedia: In the culture of the Māori of New Zealand, a tohunga (tōhuka in Southern Māori dialect) is an expert practitioner of any skill or art, either religious or otherwise. Tohunga include expert priests, healers, navigators, carvers, builders, teachers and advisors. "A tohunga may have also been the head of a whanau but quite often was also a rangatira and an ariki".[1] The equivalent and cognate in Hawaiian culture is kahuna.

The Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907 was an Act of the New Zealand Parliament aimed at eradicating and replacing tohunga as traditional Māori healers with western medicine, psychiatry and psychology. The Tohunga suppression act was a direct violation against the health and wellbeing of Māori, an act of colonisation which sought to stop Māori access to an enlightened mind and enlightened society. In an age where Māori indigenous knowledge like other indigenous societies continues to be colonised and commodified, it is important to uphold the tikanga (values and practices) associated with a Māori world view. In the colonisation of Aotearoa – New Zealand, many important terms such as Tohunga have been hegemonized into the mainstream tauiwi system. Developing is an act of reclamation of indigenous Māori knowledge pertaining to health, wellbeing and enlightenment. As well as providing a service, this site is a tribute to those Tohunga, past present and future, and asserts Tino Rangatiratanga for future generations.

"Ka mate te tāngata, Toi tū te kaupapa - Death comes to us all, however the kaupapa will endure"

Paora Te Oti Takarangi (2021)

His Holiness Dali Lama New Zealand welco

His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Pa Henare Tate, and Ngāti Whatua Iwi, Powhiri, 2007

Paora Te Oti Takarangi is of Atihau-ā-Papārangi and Ngā Rauru descent, from Kaiwhaiki Pa, near Whanganui, which is affiliated to Parihaka through longstanding family and political connections. He was given his Maori name, Te Oti Takarangi, in memory of the ancestor who led his people to Parihaka to support the philosophy of peace practised there.

Paora’ s life work as a healer has been to combine his experience in psychology with film. His intimate knowledge of intergenerational trauma is what makes him unique as a healer. Having a Māori father and Pākeha mother, he has made it his aim to facilitate positive change in New Zealand in bringing about a greater appreciation for Māori cultural traditions and understanding of reality. 

As a young person Paora travelled to India and Nepal where he met Mother Teresa and studied under numerous Tibetan Buddhist Teachers including His Holiness The Dalai Lama, His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. 


In 1986, his first job was as a youth worker on the streets of South Auckland led him to train as a clinical psychologist. His path to filmmaking runs parallel with his path to Parihaka, via Whanganui, where he lived for 10 years.


In Auckland, he worked as an actor with renowned Maori filmmaker Don Selwyn on some plays for theatre. Selwyn encouraged him to become a director and to find a story worth telling, pointing him in the direction of Parihaka at a time when other events in his life were also pointing that way. He moved to Taranaki, met Taranaki Pou Kuia Marge Raumati and Parihaka leader Te Miringa Hohaia. He worked with Te Miringa Hohaia on the Parihaka Peace Festival and the video archive project which grew out of the Festival. Parihaka kuia, Maata Wharehoka, knowing his passion for storytelling, invited him to go with the children on a road trip which was to become the makings of Tatarakihi: The Children of Parihaka. At Parihaka, he met filmmaker Dame Gaylene Preston who became executive producer of the film and a mentor for Paora's filmmaking career. He made the Documentary Edge Festival award winning film Hiding Behind the Green Screen about marijuana addiction, based on one of the Parihaka workshops Paora facilitated. He also won the best up-and-coming director award at the same festival and the film was an official selection at the FIFO International Documentary Film Festival and the Duke City DocFest. In 2014 Paora made Te Awa Tupua: Voices from the River (NZIFF) a film which honours the longstanding struggle of Whanganui iwi to reclaim guardianship over their ancestral river.   

In 2018, Paora was the Director and an Executive Producer for Māui’s Hook, a feature film that used a hybrid narrative genre of both contemporary drama and documentary to change attitudes and provoke action to reduce the rate of youth suicide in New Zealand. He drew on the work of one of his mentors, Byron Katie, as well as Tikanga Māori within the production. Since then he has travelled both in New Zealand and abroad screening the film in communities and holding workshops on suicide prevention. Paora currently lives with his whānau in Northland, where he was raised. His present focus is Māori traditional healing as well as continuing with creating more films that bring about healing and justice to humanity. 


Personal testimony from Jan Robertson (Ph.D.)Leadership Consultant Waiheke Island, Senior Researcher Institute of Professional Learning Te Whai Toi Tangata University of Waikato.

Paora Joseph ran workshops for our group of leadership facilitators on Waiheke Island. We were mainly pakeha wanting to learn more about Te Ao Maori (the Maori World) and Tikanga Maori (the allignment to nature). Paora explored concepts with us such as mana and tapu, and manaakitanga and our connection to the land in ways that not only helped us to understand the concepts as they apply to our work but also to understand our own lives as New Zealanders. We also viewed Paora’s documentaries which then became the basis for a greater depth of dialogue on New Zealand and her histories. Paora is an excellent facilitator and he is very aware of the group’s needs and works well with input from the group. Paora also gave a keynote address to a large group of senior school leaders at our annual Hui, and the feedback was very positive from all of those attending. Paora is sensitive, caring and approaches his work with a depth of spirituality, consciousness and rich expertise. We find ourselves always wanting to learn more, and indeed have worked with Paora again and again.

"I have known Paora for 25 years in both a personal and professional capacity. He is up front, supportive and committed to Kaupapa Māori initiatives. His mahi in the film space is a testament to this, combined with Kaumātua and whānau who have worked along side him to date."

Maynard Gilgen 

Feedback from previous retreats

"Paora Joseph was both powerful and inspiring"

"Paora Joseph outstanding, inspiring and a beautiful presenter"

"One can not help but feel pride towards this humble man,
what an awesome role model for Maoridom"

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