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The Art of Resilience: A Conversation with Te Manaia Jennings

By November 23, 2023Event, Schools

Rangatira 2023 was a celebration of people, passion, and the ability to make a difference in the world around us. This year, participants and the yLead team were graced with the wisdom of the incredible Te Manaia Jennings.  Te Manaia was our first guest speaker of the three-day conference, sharing her passion, knowledge and experience, as a talented artist and Rotorua local. Te Manaia not only empowers women through her art, but is also an advocate for mental health.

In conversation with Te Manaia Jennings, we dive into the relationship between art, resilience, and mental wellness, allowing us to understand the concepts of passion, empathy and purity.

Navigating Challenges

When asked about her personal strategies for navigating challenging times and moments of self-doubt, Te Manaia emphasised the role of family in her discovery of self and life so far. She explained that her family acts as a constant source of love and encouragement, which she counts as a significant blessing.

Te Manaia also shared how her art has been therapeutic in many ways, offering her insights into her emotional state. “Sometimes, I would paint things that were moody and dark. It allowed me to reflect on why and get a perspective on it,” she said. For her, art serves as an escape that gives her “heart and mind time to breathe.”

The ‘Why’ Behind Her Advocacy

Having experienced mental health issues for over a decade, Te Manaia finds that openness and conversations can help de-stigmatise the subject. “I realised how stigmatised this issue is and how talking about it can hopefully help others feel less alone with what they are going through,” she said.

When it comes to her approach to advocacy, Te Manaia continually assesses what’s missing in society and aims for practical change. She advises those looking to join the mental health advocacy space to be intentional about their ‘why’. “When your intention is good, and you are driven by the right things, that belief and good faith will always protect you and guide you”.

Unity, Community, and Mental Health

According to Te Manaia, the greatest barrier to mental health healing is shame, and the best way to combat it is through connection.

“Dealing with mental health issues does not make you weak or less than, it makes you human,”  she told us.

Te Manaia believes empathy needs to be at the forefront of every decision, advocating for lived experiences and knowledgeable perspectives to be included in the decision-making process.

She wants anyone struggling with their mental health to remember that “nothing will ever last forever” and that they can “find something that brings you comfort and ease, and know that eventually it will pass.”

Te Manaia Jennings isn’t just an artist; she’s a beacon of hope and inspiration for anyone who has struggled with mental health. Her words resonate deeply with us, reminding us that our emotional well-being is as significant as our physical health. Thank you, Te Manaia, for enriching our Rangatira event with your wisdom and warmth.

The conversation doesn’t have to end here. Let’s continue discussing, sharing, and evolving our understanding of mental health. After all, in the words of Te Manaia, it’s all about “making sure there’s more space to connect on something so important.”