By: Katee Shanks
Rotorua can claim to be the home of the #smearyourmea campaign sweeping the country.
Not only was the phrase, which translates to “smear your thing”, coined by Korowai Aroha in Rotorua years ago, the face of the current campaign is Rotorua’s Talei Morrison.
Morrison belongs to the city’s family of entertainers and has also achieved an exceptionally high profile within national and international kapa haka.
It was through kapa haka she decided to highlight her recent journey with cervical cancer and encourage women throughout the country to have a smear test.
“In August last year I was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer,” Morrison said.
“While undergoing the rollercoaster of treatment I often thought about doing something to bring attention to the importance of smear tests through the medium of kapa haka.
“Earlier this year, and when I was getting a new lease of life after treatment, my cousin came to me and said she wanted to do some sort of campaign to make people aware about breast, prostate and cervical cancer. I said I was on board and keen to spearhead the cervical cancer side of things.”
Morrison said, as a Maori women dealing with cervical cancer, she had not been able to find any medium or resource about the disease that spoke to her.
“But I knew, through kapa haka, I could reach people.”
What she didn’t know, was how #smearyourmea would take off.
“The campaign has certainly spread like bush fire. But I believe that’s because people have been wanting to talk about smear tests for years but it hasn’t happened.
“I am part of a loud generation prepared to scream it out.”
Morrison said there were 13 kapa haka regions within Aotearoa and she was looking forward to seeing how each would pick up the campaign and roll it out in their region.
“I’ve got a friend who has organised a series of ladies’ pamper nights. So as well as getting their hair and nails done, people will also duck off to a side room and have a smear.”
She said things got done when people united.
“We know having a smear can be thought of as intrusive and it is also an emotive thing.
“But I know, as Maori, we do things better when we’re together – that’s when we rise to any occasion.
“So, through kapa haka, we can do this.”
Morrison said she had been blown away by the messages she had received since launching the campaign.
“I’ve had women in their 60s and 70s tell me about their own journeys and how they had to walk alone.
“I’ve had women tell me they’ve read my blog and found the courage to book a smear test.
“I’ve also had women tell me they’re not part of a haka team but want to do their part. To this I say, no one needs to be part of kapa haka to save a life – get on board and do what you can.”
The #smearyourmea campaign encourages women to have a smear test and, after the test, upload a photo of themselves pulling the campaign’s V sign to the #smearyourmea Facebook page.
“Kapa haka regionals start this weekend and run until June so I hope to see every woman from the teams upload their photo to show they are up to date,” Morrison said.
“The campaign is a celebration of you – of every woman who has a smear test as a result.”
It has attracted the support of many New Zealand sporting people, celebrities and officials including Rotorua’s Te Ururoa Flavell.
Source: Rotorua Daily Post