11 Nov 2018

Rātana faith grows in spirit of social media innovation

8:35 am on 11 November 2018

Rātana followers are turning to social media to grow the future of the faith.

Thousands of people have converged on Rātana pā this week to mark 100 years since the prophet Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana started the religion.

The Rātana faith has flourished for the last century with over 40,000 followers but this year's centenary celebrations are focused on rangitahi, to ensure the faith continues to grow.

Creator of the Facebook video series Māramatanga in a Minute, Raniera Pene, says he is using social media to bring the faith into the 21st century.

His Facebook video series tells the stories of the prophet Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana.

Mr Pene has posted 100 videos on social media each day in the lead-up to the celebration.

"He was a trend-setter in his time and so basically what we're doing isn't really any different - he had a strong spirit of creativity and innovation on him and so it's important for us to carry on with that spirit of creativity and innovation."

"I think religion is definitely a word that can scare some of our rangitahi but I think it is about leveraging who we are as Māori and that this isn't something that came from overseas, this kaupapa was actually given directly to our tūpuna back then 100 years ago and so we can actually be proud in celebrating that this actually isn't a religion, it's a way of life for us."

Nikau Reti-Beazley agreed that social media was the way forward for the faith.

"I think that'll be a key driver in keeping our rangitahi interested, keeping that fire going inside of them, coming back down to the pa to pay their respects.

"The māngai always talks about uniting the Māori people and I think by having the social media outlets I think we can bring everyone together."

Many rangitahi begin their spiritual relationship at the pa.

Mokopuna of T.W Rātana

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Zen Te Hira was baptised there and maintains a strong connection to the place.

"Spiritually I'm from here... I've been coming here since I was a little kid so I think it's just that feeling of home, that sense of home you get when you come here."

Mr Te Hira was positive about the future of the faith.

"I think further on maybe when I get older it'll still be as strong if not stronger which to me is quite an uplifting thing to see - it fills me up with pride," he said.

"This is where I'm from, this is my whānau here, so I'm quite excited for what's in store for our hāhi in the future."

His sister Maia, a budding fashion designer, is drawn to the event for the outfits.

"The vibrancy and the colours and the textures - almost like the unapologeticness [sic] that the kuia and the kaumātua have when they get dressed up for these events."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with rangatahi at Rātana pā.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with rangatahi at Rātana pā. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King