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A string is made of many interwoven fibers

Te Aho Matatū shows that there are entwined relationships between CTCR, the many communities they are working with, and the contribution to the knowledge pool from each of us through these interactions.

Te Aho Matatū shows that no matter the distance, space or time that separates us, we still have this aho that connects us together.

Aho, n.
1. String, line.
2. Weft, cross threads of a mat. Aho tahuhu, first weft in weaving a garment.
3. Genealogy, line of descent.

Matatū, a.
1. Standing firm, enduring, endurance.
2. Wakeful, alert.

The first strands

The whānau involved in the initial stages of the genetic research which led to the eventual establishment of the Centre for Translational Cancer Research (CTCR) believed that the death of so many family members was a result of a historic violation of tapu a few generations back. For this whānau to take a chance on Western medicine to find another reason for their misfortune was a huge undertaking that went against a belief system that had protected generations of tīpuna but was no longer functioning for them.

Whakapapa is central

Pivotal in this research was the knowledge of whakapapa. Whakapapa is the creation, formation, and discovery of the body of knowledge that informs the research CTCR do. The scientific methods used to underpin the work of the CTCR is based on a whakapapa of that body of knowledge.

Whakapapa is about relationships. It is about the enduring connection that is strengthened when we interact with each other, when we share our experiences, when we create new understandings; and when we make new discoveries, we are creating a bond that transcends time and place.

Whakapapa extends beyond simply reciting the names on one's family tree. It is the foundation upon which the principles of Māori society are constructed and it acts as an epistemological template upon which the fundamentals of Māori knowledge is formed. As each successive generation is born, another layer of knowledge is constructed, maintaining that which prior generations have left behind, whilst at the same time also adding to that which has already been created.


Many thanks to Associate Professor Karyn Paringatai from Te Tumu – School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies for her assistance in developing the name Te Aho Matatū.

Genetic jeopardy

Knowledge of her whakapapa saved Dr Karyn Paringatai's life. Now this experience is inspiring her research.

Guildford Paringatai thumbnail
Related story:
Life saver

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