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Fry Bread Fridays: Keeping Culture Alive In Isolation

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The COVID-19 pandemic is (at least for the foreseeable future) changing how we as Maori can practice our culture, but that doesn’t mean isolation is stopping us from being Maori.

For the foreseeable future, we can’t attend weddings, funerals, or other celebrations with large gatherings. For the foreseeable future, we must physically distance ourselves from people, especially those deemed most at risk: our kaumatua, our elders. 

But acting safely and responsibly doesn’t mean we have to put a halt on all our cultural practices, and it certainly doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our Maori culture at home. Here’s five suggestions for some activities you and your family can try to keep spirits up, have some fun, and keep culture alive in these changing times.


1. Cook some fry bread


I’m hungry just looking at it. (Image credit: Maori Television)

To properly prime you for your time spent indoors, you can’t go past cooking yourself a feed first. Everyone on social media seems to be making bread during this pandemic, and you don’t have to miss out on it either. Why not practice your fry bread-making skills while in isolation? Online recipes have a few slight variations for each recipe, but the result is usually quite similar. It’s a simple little snack we can make with the basics we already have at home (if you don’t have yeast, you can use this recipe). Nothing beats a buttered fry bread and jam to fuel you on your quest. You might even want to make it your weekly treat – Fry Bread Fridays, anyone?


2. Whakapapa – your genealogical journey


This one’s a personal favourite of mine. Maori culture holds whakapapa, our genealogical story, in high regard. We see it as paramount for understanding who we are and where we come from. Don’t be intimidated by the task at hand – you don’t have to memorise every single name dating back to first landing. Simply start with you, your parents, your grandparents, and take it from there. You might like to record stories you know about each person and find old photos of them in storage. The results of a simple Google search of your grandparents’ names might also surprise you; there’s so much online nowadays that you can record on websites like MyHeritage or simply on paper.


3. Watch those legendary haka clips


If you’re keen for some entertainment look no further than classic haka compilations. I found this video on the haka performed across different sports quite fascinating – did you know that even the New Zealand lacrosse team perform their own haka when competing? You may also remember Jonah Lomu’s moving funeral tribute haka from his former teammates (keep the tissues on hand for this one).


4. Master Maori weaponry (…or just start on your journey for now)


What’s that broken mop still doing in the garage and why hasn’t it already been fashioned into a makeshift taiaha? Try your hand at a little bit of Maori weaponry, whether it be controlled breath and slow movements (see video below), or maybe something that requires quite a bit more skill to perform. If you’re practicing with someone else, remember to do so safely! 

It’s all in the breathing… (Credit: All Right?)

 5. Learn the night sky

Looking to channel the skills of your ocean-voyaging ancestors? Wondering at the night sky can be more than just stargazing with the litany of apps available to help us decipher the cosmos. Who knows, you might learn something for when Mataariki is upon us. Apps like Night Sky or Star Walk might teach us a thing or two about constellations and planets, and we can feel like nighttime navigators in no time.  

If we all look after each other in the coming weeks, we’ll get through this. Look after your whanau, and keep a safe distance from those outside your household. These suggestions might give you something to do, and whether you’ve done them before or not, they’ll make a proud Maori out of any of us, and help to see us and our culture through to the other side.

What have you been doing to keep yourself busy in your isolation bubble? Drop us a comment below to share your top tips.


(Header image credit: Modified image. Nick Thompson, Flickr.)

Sapphire Peake

Sapphire Peake

ProudRoots Editor

Tapuika, Waitaha, Pākehā. Residing in Perth. Passionate about Indigenous affairs. I write here sometimes, when my fingers aren't in every other pie.

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