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Archetypal Woman Series: Ataria Sharman

The old one-dimensional female archetypes -- the soccer mom, the starving artist, the successful-but-lonely boss lady -- are dead. Women are creating new, multidimensional archetypes and defying stereotypes.

The most fulfilled women are constantly creating in multiple areas of their lives, whereas burnout often happens when we feel like the routine of our day job is all we have time for. The Archetypal Woman Series is a tribute to inspiring women who rearrange time and space to explore and excel in a range of activities. May their stories encourage you to expand into your own uniqueness for the benefit of you and everyone in your orbit.

Editor's note: Ataria opened me up to a whole new world for me personally--that is, the experience of Māori (indigenous) women in New Zealand. She champions a diverse range of voices through her online magazine, Awa Wahine, and provides one-on-one coaching support. ~ Mary Margaret

Can you tell us a little bit about the work you do?

I'm a freelance writer, editor and creative coach which I run off the back of a digital platform I created called Awa Wahine Online Magazine, a space for Māori (indigenous) women in New Zealand to share their writing and art. To support my income I also work part-time in administration.

We are in a time of rapid change! What encouraging trends are you seeing in your industry?

I think in the creative sector here in New Zealand we are seeing a move away from more expensive methods of publication such as print, exhibitions and live-events to live streaming, online events and digital platforms. I believe this is good because it democratizes access for artists to be able to share their work in a cost-effective way, whether that be in an online journal, social media or e-book.

Previously in the creative sector because of the elitism of who is "published", "promoted" and "seen" people of colour, minorities and indigenous have been pushed out by the gatekeepers of those structures.

I remember attending a talk at a Writers Festival here in New Zealand, where a Samoan author told us the story of how her book was turned away from publishing houses because they believed that her people “don't read or buy books." These false and racist assumptions create real barriers for creatives of colour and minorities wanting to share their work.

What are some practical tools you use to help manage your time and energy?

Every morning I attempt to get up before work and do some kind of sadhana practise that I have learnt from Guru Jagat and Rama TV. I think this helps a lot to regulate my time and energy. At the moment my practise includes cat cow, intelligence and the addiction meditation as well as sometimes fists of anger and sat kriya. I also listen a lot to podcasts by people like Guru Jagat and Mary Margaret Skelly and inspiring music.

The latest track I've been playing over and over was one I came across while watching the Michelle Obama documentary "Becoming" on Netflix (highly recommended) which is called "A God Like You" by Kirk Franklin. She plays it in the car in the opening scene and it totally stuck with me. I love Michelle Obama for her message of sophisticated empowerment for Black women and women of colour. I find that listening to inspiring people and music lifts me up and energizes me to keep working.

Particularly during isolation for coronavirus, I've been doing everything Rama TV has to offer (Rama Business School, Immense Grace, Aquarian Women's Leadership Society) so I guess binge-watching (and sometimes doing) Kundalini yoga classes also helps me a lot haha!

I also want to acknowledge Rama TV as a platform and Guru Jagat as a leader who aims to empower indigenous and people of colour. I was the recipient of an Aquarian Women’s Leadership Society scholarship for six months, which I am so grateful for as at the time I wouldn’t have been able to afford the monthly membership. After a few months of regular morning meditation (including prosperity meditations), my finances improved and now I am a paying member.

This is the Archetypal Woman Series, where we shine a spotlight on women who are bringing forth new, multidimensional ways of living and working. How would you describe the archetype you’re bringing onto the planet?

Because of colonisation, for Māori in New Zealand there have been a number of very real and damaging stereotypes in the media and in our societal structures of what it means to be Māori. This generally includes portrayals of family dysfunction, poverty, abuse and addiction in the news, television and movies.

I kind of see myself as reclaiming (alongside many others) an archetype of the indigenous woman who is empowered, prosperous and healthy in all ways including taha wairua (spirit), taha tinana (body), taha whānau (family) and taha hinengaro (mind).

Can you tell us about a woman who has had significant impact on the trajectory of your career? What lessons did she impart?

There was a lecturer at university, a Māori woman from the same iwi (tribal area) who really took me under her wing and persuaded me to do my postgraduate studies at University by offering me paid research work. Without her strong guidance, I don't think I would've ever thought I was good enough to do postgraduate studies.

Of course, I ended up getting awarded first class for my Honours degree and then completing my Masters as well on the Māori goddesses or atua wāhine. This gave me the knowledge base to create Awa Wahine Online Magazine and also write my first children's fiction novel which interweaves the narratives of some of the Māori goddesses, which is part of my wider mission to extract colonial and patriarchal thought forms from traditional Māori belief systems. So I owe a lot to this one woman who really set me on the right path.

What's next for you? Do you have any projects in the pipeline you'd like us to know about? How can we support you and your work?

I want Awa Wahine to move into the space of facilitating the transmission of Māori matrilineal (woman to woman) knowledge systems. So me and the team are looking at running digital workshops and day-long digital events featuring knowledgeable and experienced Māori women sharing their knowledge with less experienced Māori women.

In our belief systems, we call this the principle of tuakana/teina, which is the relationship between an older (tuakana) person and a younger (teina) person and is specific to teaching and learning.

If you want to support Awa Wahine as a platform for Māori women, you can set up a monthly donation through PressPatron here.

All proceeds go towards creating opportunities for Māori women, who face unique and sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges in the colonial landscape here in New Zealand.

What message do you want to share with the world?

I want to embody a transmission of success for Māori women, that they can be successful in all ways. That they can step around all obstacles and obstructions that lie in their path, regardless of how powerful the structures that impose those obstructions seem to be.

You can follow Ataria on Instagram @awawahine and @atariarangipikitia.

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