Taku Haerenga (My Journey) by Missmaorigal

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For todays modern Maori, the choice to learn and embrace their Maoritanga isnt a process that happens overnight. More often than not, there is a catalyst, a starter, someone or something that leads you to ask questions. Something that makes you ask yourself what it is to be Maori.

10299567_10152158935673722_6809860299639213845_nI can think of many people asking these questions, but where to go for answers? For an Australian-born maori (or mozzie) such as myself, the massiveness of these questions, and Te ao Maori in general (The Maori World) can seem like a dark hole of unknown mystery. How to begin? Who to speak to? What will be expected of me?

While I would never dictate how a person should live their life, what I can share is how I am personally approaching it. From a self-proclaimed mozzie point of view. Detailing the highs and lows, the places I visit, and the people along the way. From someone that generally had a pakeha upbringing, its a complete shift in how you view the world.

Who am I to be writing this you may ask. Why keep reading? What is it about my opinions that merit your consideration?

Well, Im a little political, and a little crazy. I have a lot to learn and my opinions are just that – opinions. They are not gospel, they are not law. I dont aim to discredit anyone, but more to share my experiences with those who are interested. If one person reads this and decides to look into maoritanga for themselves, ill be happy.

I should state from the start that at present I am semi-fluent in te reo so apologies in advance for any and all types of errors I may write. Obviously I will make all efforts to avoid any possible mistakes in the first place though. Not only with the language, but everything I write overall. My mother is Ngati Hari from Taumarunui, and my father is Ngapuhi from Nukutawhiti.

This is my journey of discovery to find out what that means to me -Missmaorigal.

(If you would like to follow my journey on Facebook, please click here)

“I basically had no maori influence for the first twelve years of my life”

Neither of my parents spoke te reo maori. There were no kohanga reo, no marae, no maori channel, and obviously it wasnt part of the school curriculum, let alone something you could pursue in tertiary studies. These are the consequences of being raised outside of New Zealand I suppose. Not that Im complaining. Being born and raised in Australia also gave me a unique outlook in a way. It helped me to see things a little differently.

When I was about 12, our family of 7 relocated to New Zealand. Kiaora was the extent of my maori knowledge at the time. When I started at my new school, all that began to change. I learnt I had a hapu, an iwi, a waka, a maunga, an awa, and a marae. It was like meeting several cousins for the first time. You know theyre family, but you dont know them as such. I spent the next 5 years or so toying with the idea of learning maori, but it took another 15 odd years before I finally decided to do something about it. Life has its own plan sometimes but better late than never as some might say. When my father passed away three years ago, I seriously decided to give it a go. Leaving it that long is something I will always regret. My father spent the last 25 odd years of his life going back to his maoritanga and I never took advantage of the knowledge, the skills, or the reo that he had. Between him and the four mokopuna he and my mother cared for, that was my catalyst. To continue what he started.

The first and most important thing I would recommend to someone wanting to go back to their Maoritanga speak to your family and learn what you can from them.

Speak to those you do know and seek out those you dont. Whanau that have the knowledge of tikanga, reo, rongoa, anything really. They are keepers of those taonga (treasures), and in my opinion need to be shared and passed on. I found myself randomly adding people on facebook looking for extended whanau and getting to know them that way. Whanau is one of the underlying principles of maoritanga. The value of having a family that can work together and move forward as one goes without saying really. Of course, that all sounds good and well in theory, but in reality, its damn near impossible! Something to work towards but not necessarily attainable.

What Im saying is look at members of your own family to learn what you can.

By learn I mean mouth closed, eyes and ears open, take-it-all-in-to-decipher-it-later-learn. And I have already made the mistake of doing the exact opposite of this and learnt my lesson accordingly. Personally I believe you need to have a humble and open attitude to really be able to learn the right things from the right people. But at the same time you need to be able to critically analyse any information given to you and form your own ideas. If like me, the majority of your whanau dont have the knowledge or cant help, look at your marae, extended family, researching, and studies.

My way of introducing myself into te ao maori was to do a six-month Kawai Raupapa (maori arts) course. One of the units was whakapapa and so I needed to put together a pepeha (tribal proverb) and a whakapapa project. You will be surprised how accommodating the right members of whanau will be if you have the courage to simply ask. During this course I made a putorino (similar to a flute), attended weekend wananga, and touched on the various forms of maori arts raranga, whakairo, different musical instruments, carvings and designs etc. This confirmed what I already knew I was on the right path. I actually joined the course late and only just made the final cut-off date. While the rest of the class had already met and been to one noho I had to play catch up. But the pressure of putting myself in that situation was good for me. Ive always been the sink-or-swim type.

Something else I cant put high enough value on Maori Television.

I have learnt so much of the reo watching this channel. Even the kids shows like Pukana and Miharo I find entertaining although that probably says more about me than its teaching abilities. But either way, streaming shows online, watching as much of it as possible and just trying as hard as I can to follow along does wonders. When you can hear a song and understand certain words and phrases in it, you will see the rewards of your efforts.

I should point out that before I even did the Kawai Raupapa course last year, I did as much research as I could on the types of courses available and what they covered. This year I decided to continue on with Tikanga Marae a course that teaches about the various areas of a marae, the evolution from a traditional Polynesian marae to the urban marae we have today, as well as many other subjects. Weve all heard the saying your body is a temple??? Well something this course expands on is treating your own body as a marae. After all, that is what the physical layout of a marae is based on the female body. True story look it up if you dont believe me.

I also signed up to a course at my mothers marae consisting of six weekend noho over several months. I turned up to the first noho expecting a laid back wananga, relaxed family environment, with the focus on whakapapa as opposed to te reo after all it is a family wananga at the family marae, the last thing I was expecting was a school environmentwithin the first twenty four hours it was explained there would be periods of full immersion, we were given workbooks, and we would be obtaining a certificate at the end! Im not complaining but when you have to sing a song for being late, all you can do is laugh and go with it.

So with my foundations set and ready for me to build on, Ill be working towards becoming more fluent in the reo, becoming more and better acquainted with both sides of the family, building whakapapa, and basically trying to find the balance between the work to live mentality, and the maoritanga.

Coming up on my next blog studies, noho marae, researching whakapapa and more.

Thanks for reading.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I really appreciate reading about your journey as I myself feel disconnected, (have always felt like something is missing) my mum is Maori from Otaua and my dad is European so I missed out on a lot as while growing up we lived away from family…as I have gotten older I have become more aware and the pieces are starting to come together and things are starting to make more sense…I look forward to reading more…Thank you

  2. Kia ora for that, our whanau split down the middle really when Dad ran away to Aussie in 1970, I have 2 kiwi brothers and three mozzie siblings. It’s interesting watching the Mozzie journey later in life, esp now our father has died, trying to work out what being Maori might mean to them. I reckon it means a lot of shared whanau time, whenever we can, lots of kai, lots of laughs, respect for tikanga and for the reo even as we learn it. Sosounds about right, I reckon!

  3. Very insightful! I hope other people who feel a sense of disconnection with their culture, are inspired by your korero and heed your advice. No journey is greater, than the one that leads us back to where it all began. Embrace the taonga that our ancestors have left us behind.

  4. Thank you! I also was born and raised in Australia, recently returning to Aotearoa 18 months ago, and really connected with a lot of the korero in this post 🙂

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