Nestled amongst the North Gate area of the Byron Bay Bluesfest is a nondescript tent that sits next to the Boomerang circle, but not to be fooled by it's commonplace appearance, inside you are transported to another world. The Te Kopere Maori Healers are a group of friendly and affectionate women (and a man) who hail from the Wanganui area in Aoetearoa (New Zealand) and bring with them the tradition of Rongoa Maori: traditional Maori healing that includes spiritual healing, physical therapies such as massage and herbal remedies.
Even the first moments of this workshop are magical in their own right as you greet each of the healers in a traditional formal sense, by way of Hongi (pressing your nose and forehead together). It was such a genuine and warm experience that before I had even sat down to start the workshop I already swelled full of jubilant feelings. The time that ensued was something I can only describe as uplifting, joyful and occasionally very cheeky, in the best possible way!
I was afforded a few moments with Rochelle Bullock, in the days following, to speak about her time within the Boomerang festival/Bluesfest and how Te Kopere came to be. Originating with her Grandmother Olive who first started bringing workshops over to Australia around 30 years ago, Te Kopere was formed to teach the Rongoa tradition and has been shaped and formed to suit a common audience. Boomerang have included Te Kopere Maori Healers amongst their line up for three years since the inclusion on the Bluesfest bill and give the public a taste of the traditional Maori healing using a variety of spiritual healing, massage techniques, herbal remedies and traditional song, as well as a quick, fun-filled informal training in Rakau, which are stick games designed to help you learn coordination. Such a formal start and a then calming lead in, to finish with these games and fun song/dance inspired massage techniques had the participants laughing and joking around with their new 'family'.
Bound together with music and song Rochelle describes it as “what links everyone together and is the fastest way to healing” and the workshops are designed to help people naturally work through the process of healing. “You don't need to be a special massage therapist, or a guru or whatever, you just have to have a bunch of Aunties around, get together and have a laugh and a sing – and hold that energy.”
Te Kopere also made a small performance during the closing ceremony of the Boomerang festival which we both agreed was moving to see all the tribes and representatives of some of the world's first nations joining in to support each other and showcase their genuine love for land, people and music as well as honouring their ancestors and our own nation's first peoples.
You can arrive to visit Te Kopere Maori Healers with no knowledge or expectations, but you will certainly leave feeling uplifted, coordinated and wonderfully calm. Highly recommended for broadening the mind and maintaining the sanity over the Bluesfest period.