|I am the product of two young lovers who met while on a protest march for land. They were teenagers then, and not long after, I was born. To be precise, my parents met while camped outside the steps of Parliament in Wellington, Aotearoa. Their world, I am told, was a bit different from mine.|
The story goes that my mother actually turned up at Parliament with another man, who is also a prominent pro-Mäori figure today. But she left with my father. And for that I do not complain. My parents went on to get married and have two more children.
This all happened in the 1970s, and the 1970s and 1980s in Aotearoa were turbulent in terms of race relations between Mäori and päkeha [New Zealanders of British/European descent]. There was this thing called the Te Tiriti O Waitangi [the Treaty of Waitangi], an agreement between the British Crown royalty and the Mäori people signed in 1840 - it was going to protect our people from spiritual death. My parents, and many other Mäori, just wanted the government to honor it.
So they marched and shouted. They got thrown off rugby fields and into jails for protesting South African apartheid. They "bared all" to insult the visiting (British) Crown royalty. They fought violently with päkeha university students who denigrated Mäori cultural traditions. They squatted on supposed "Crown land" until the police physically removed them from it. And they physically walked the length of the North Island to remind us of the promises of the treaty.
As a child I watched my parents fight with our landlord, and with the ears of a babe I heard the landlord cry, "Bloody Mäoris, you should all go back to Bastion Point!" As an infant I watched my mummy and daddy get beaten up by police, all the while being called "black bastards." Later, the police complaints department said "Complaint dismissed."
My children have not seen anything like that in their upbringing. Why? It is because my time is different. It is because I am different. It is because the feelings are different. It is not because things are better.
I can never speak for all Mäori, not even for all Mäori women. My stories are about me, and through them will emerge the different colors of the many käkahu [cloaks] I wear: that of Mäori, that of wähine [female], that of mother, that of wife, that of aspiring career woman, and that of friend. But one käkahu I wear vigorously is that of a young Mäori woman choosing to live in the city. It is a käkahu which saw me growing up all over Aotearoa and attending a range of schools.
I attended the all-päkeha South Island city schools ("Say a Mouwry word for us!"), the small rural Mäori Area schools, the "elite" urban Mäori girls' boarding school, and finally the huge city high schools hosting many different ethnicities and races. This käkahu was all-encompassing and offered me beautiful - if sometimes cruelly honest - experiences.
I would like to remember two women who helped weave that spiritual käkahu of mine. The first is my nanny (grandmother), Patricia Charlotte Broughton. I was the first moko [grandchild] to come into her life, and I was born on the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary of her and Papa (my grandfather). She has been dead for fifteen years and I miss her like she left us yesterday. I was only a young girl when she passed away and joined my papa, leaving our lives, but
I feel her wairua [spirit] eternally. She is inside me more than my own heart is.
When her mokopuna [grandchildren] were born she would pull our flat noses with her fingers to try and make them pointier - like the päkeha ones. Her efforts were in vain because here we all are today with the flattest noses ever! When she would visit päkeha people she would put on bright red lipstick and purse her lips in a way that would make them smaller - like päkeha ones. My siblings and I owe our gloriously large, juicy lips to her.
My nanny was a fluent and eloquent speaker of my native language, te reo Mäori, and also of English. Her faith in the Catholic Church was the pinnacle in her way of life. She was the best cook ever, and she loved her mokopuna like there was no tomorrow. She was fierce in her protection of her whänau [family]; I am sharply reminded of the time when she took me to her work to help out and her boss refused to pay me. There is no anger like that of a nanny for her unfairly treated grandchild. Needless to say, in the end I received good pay for that day.
Nanny loved my father and her other children so much that she cut the cords that connected them to their spiritual homeland in the rural countryside and took them to receive the best of the päkeha world in the city. For the most part my father flourished, but he would inevitably feel a sense of disconnection. . . .
And so would my mother. She would yearn to be Mäori but not always know how, being a born-and-bred Wellingtonian. My mother - Hanakawhi Alexandra Paraone Nepe-Fox - also weaves herself through the käkahu that protects and nourishes me. As a woman raising a family, I begin to fully appreciate her strength, her dignity, her honesty, and her wisdom. My father and mother felt the loss that many of their cohorts did - the loss of language, the loss of land, the loss of mana [self-worth]. Spiritual death seemed too close to them.
I am thankful for their radical antics that I spoke of earlier - I face no such spiritual death. But I face things my parents and grandparents never did as young people trying to negotiate their way in this new world.
The Aotearoa I live in has been forced to acknowledge the status of Mäori culture and the promises of its protection made under the Treaty of Waitangi. Today I can access any number of Mäori educational learning services, from Kohanga Reo [nursery] for my babies to wänanga [institutions] or universities to receive tertiary qualifications.
More career opportunities are available to me as a speaker of te reo Mäori than as a Mäori who cannot "talk the talk." Today I am called on in my central city corporate office building for my knowledge and experience in Mäori ceremonial welcome, my skill in karanga [a traditional performance], and my ability to perform waiata [chanting].
Indeed, my mates and I constantly compete with each other on how "Mäori Mäori" we have managed to become. It comes down to the number of Mäori art pieces on our walls, the size of the taonga [traditional pendant] around our necks, the number of syllables we've managed to include in our child's Mäori name, how long we can stand up and mihi [praise] in Mäori without faltering, and how many items of clothing we own with a Mäori design on them. We are staunchly proud of who we are, while all too well aware of the "white lash" that has accompanied the rise of Mäori culture within New Zealand society.
Not as many landlords today are telling us to "Go back to Bastion Point," and not as many police are bashing us and calling us "black bastards," but the fear and insecurity of many are more underlying, and more dangerous. I choose to ignore these underlying tones, be it a lean towards blissful ignorance or the realization that some people are too far gone for me to worry about.
My parents faced blatant opposition, outright hatred, violence, and mass racism. These things still exist today but in ways far more institutionalized than ever.
But as I said, I choose to ignore that fact.
I instead make good use of the opportunities that are available to me as a young Mäori woman. I took part in a four-week-long kayaking voyage that retraced the traditional waterways of my tüpuna [ancestors]. I have been on climbing expeditions to summit snowy Tongariro and Ngauruhoe mountains. I modeled in the Pasifika Fashion Show, which has become a first-class professional performance. I have scaled cliffs in rock climbing expeditions to Northland and Waikato. I embarked on study at the Auckland University as a teenage mother. I work with pride and passion at the Human Rights Commission, where I strive to affect the lives of people every day. I am proud of all of that.
The negative numbers that show themselves in the social, economic, and cultural reports concerning the Mäori people mean little to me. I am not in those numbers; they do not define who I am or who my people are. They are only guidelines for where my work lies, but I don't need reports to tell me that.
One thing that does define me, though, is the work of my weavers; those who have contributed to the making of my spiritual käkahu. Most important, they are my nanny, my mother, and my father.
I began this account by telling about my whakapapa [genealogy], so I find it appropriate to finish with reference to it also. Specifically, I want to talk about my mother. With all the mountains and rivers I have conquered, my university degree, my fashion modeling achievements, my meaningful and rewarding career, and my vast worldly experiences, I can only hope to reflect some of the wondrous woman that is my mother. With none of the above to put next to her name, she is mum, wife, and grandmother extraordinaire and my eternal source of wisdom, knowledge, and soul food. She needs nothing but herself to be great, and she has guided me through my life as a Mäori woman. As a shaper of people she is the most fantastic artist I know, carving within me a love for my whänau [birthplace], hapü [clan], and iwi [community]. I am bound by this love and will slowly make whatever mark I have so that the world may realize it.
Na reira, nga mihi nui ki a koutou, tënä koutou, tënä koutou, tënä tätou katoa. To that end, my warmest admiration and respect to all of you, and to all of us.
This is Me
Hikurangi is the mountain
Waiapü is the river
Ngäti Porou is the tribe
And on my father's side . . .
Te Ramaroa and Panguru are the mountains
Whirinaki and Hokianga are the rivers
Te Hikutu and Ngai Tupoto are the subtribes
Ngäpuhi and Te Rarawa are the tribes
Breath of life!
Ko Ahau Tënei
Ko Hikurangi te maunga
Ko Waiapü te awa
Ko Ngäti Porou te iwi
Ki te taha o töku päpa
Ko Te Ramaroa me Panguru ngä maunga
Ko Whirinaki me Hokianga ngä awa
Ko Te Hikutu me Ngai Tupoto ngä hapü
Ko Ngäpuhi me Te Rarawa nga iwi
|FLAG THIS STORY FOR REVIEW|
Thank you IMOW, for trying to change the world one byte at a time; thank you, Voters for showing us that you care, and thank you, dear fellow artists, for creating a vibrant tapestry of words, images and sounds that connect us to each...