Say his name!

It’s 2020 and we’re still having these conversations, except now the conversation is public, global and streamed live to your hand. People can simply switch their phones off or unfollow people not to ‘hear’ what is being said and ignore what they deem delicate to their constitution. It was easier before. Before snap, before insta, before facebook, before everything social media, to change channel or walk away and hide from it, because our worlds were smaller and didn’t connect. The worlds populace has no option now. Logged in or not, tech savvy or not, PhD level reader or not. Political leader, teacher, tradie, eco warrior, unemployed, or pubescent teen; if you haven’t heard of George Floyd by now – you’ve been living under a moss covered, bubble wrapped, cotton balled rock.

George Floyd. His name rings out across every country in the “civilised” world, from mouths tired of inequality. Tired of praying. Tired of waiting for their loved ones to come home every evening – alive. Tired of telling their loved ones to take care and be safe, knowing full well it could be the last time they see them – alive. Tired of having to remember what their loved ones wear everyday just in case they have to put posters up with descriptions later on to identify them or they have to identify them at a morgue.

Another face sprawled across news articles, web pages and opinion columns – like Facebook. Another video capturing another murder. Another video capturing the murderers.

Another family member lost in a sea of faces across social media. Another name we speak. Another name we shout. Another name we scream. Another life.

Another reason to be fearful for the lives of not only Black America, but Native America, all People of Colour in America. All People of Colour around the world. The list is never ending.

I am angry. Constantly so.

Another name in the long list of Black American names who have been slain, to add to the already long list of names that have been said, aloud, throughout history – another name to add to a list that reads like humanity’s “Dead for being Black/a Person of Colour” list.

Whose name will we shout tomorrow? Which ethnic group will they come from? Will it be someone I know?

I am more than just angry. I rage in the quiet. My blood boiling over a constant flame. Trying to make believe that those deemed our protectors of society are not here to harm, but to serve and protect (And most of them do protect and do serve the people well, let’s not get twisted). I am trying to be calm when I think of my four children, my varied degrees of brown coloured sons, and I tell myself that the death of George Floyd will bring justice for him, his family and every name said and not said, who deserves justice from race blinkered belligerence. From a race blinkered world.

But I know the truth. I have been angry for decades. I have been in this state of mind since my own youth. I have seen and heard of these crimes all of my life. I have been victim to them without even being there, purely by way of having brown skin all of my life and now I cannot help but fear for my children.

Will my children outlive these times? My eldest is 20, my youngest, 14 – it’s possible. Will they fall into the trap and believe that if they are good members of society and adhere to societies rules that they will be seen for who they are, Māori, proud, manaaki tangata, members of Aotearoa society with much to give, much to learn, but still young Māori members of society with much to sacrifice and much from which to be stolen.

I fear for and am angry for my sons, who are already a statistic by being born Māori. Already a statistic for being Māori and male. Māori, male and young. Māori, male, young who wear hoodies. Māori, male, young, who wear hoodies, trackpants and listen to any and all music – but the only music that identifies their race is that which claps on two and four, not one and three. Māori, male, young, who wear hoodies, trackpants and listen to any and all music, who are probably sick and tired of me reminding them that there is no way they’re walking out of our home without wearing tidy clothes, so they don’t get accused of doing something while we’re out. Tired because they don’t want to feel as if they have to wear a top hat and tails whenever we go to Pak’n Save to buy groceries. It’s not right that out of all of my sons, the one I do not fear for as much is the one who looks more white. This is not to say that it doesn’t worry me that he could be a victim or bare witness to blind or casual racism, he does already and doesn’t even notice, but the fear is there and no matter if my sons become opera singers, roadworkers, artists, plumbers, beneficiaries or Prime Minister, the fear will always be there – because they are brown. Because they are People of Colour, because they are Māori. The historical and generational trauma is real.

I don’t know how many times I have talked to my sons about what to wear out of the house. I don’t know how many times I have talked to my sons about what to do if they see a police car pull up beside them when they are walking home from anywhere. I don’t know how many times I have watched my sons leave our home and mentally taken note of everything they wore that day, or how many times I’ve been thankful that they attend a boarding school, because if they are there, they are somewhat safe. I don’t know how many times I’ve told them the rules of walking into and out of a store with a bag on, filing out of any and all stores like we have nothing to feel guilty for but feeling guilty because we know we have to do it anyway to prove a point. I don’t know how many times I have woken up at night wondering whether I’ve done the right thing in teaching them to be cautious of this world. It scares me even if my sons start dating non Māori girls purely based on the fact that as a culture there is always an uneasy look that “I” am usually given when my sons introduce me as their mother and people see how dark I am compared to their pāpā. My colour alone, seems to shock their eyes and their look lets me know right there and then, that I have to bleach my voice in order to shade a part of my own culture, so as not to jeopardise my son. I have been a mixture of fearful and angry for my sons since before they were all born. I have been that mixture for myself since before I realised what I was confronting internally, trying to erase the melanin in my skin with janola, sand soap and a scrubbing brush as a six year old in Nana’s washhouse. I have been that fearful and angry for People of Colour my whole life, because of the hurt and anguish I feel for the millions of people like me, caught on the outside of the blinkers. Like George Floyd.

George Floyd was a man who stood proudly as a family man, hardworking, community minded, sincere, kind. A man trying to move forward in a society already pinning him as something he was not, and his death speaks of the truths, depravity and decay that most, if not all People of Colour witness in our present, while we stand on the outside of the blinkers.

Māori200 – Mana Wahine.

NB: Another catch up from last year … September-ish to be exact.

Second year of uni done and dusted.

I’ve loved learning and sharing ideas and concepts since I started uni. Learning makes my wairua happy. Sharing makes my wairua happy. Helping others through their own journey makes my wairua happy. My classes make my wairua happy – right down to the assignments.

I’ve had two creative art pieces as assignments this year for different classes and they’ve both come with their own challenges, angst, pride and successes.

Māori200 – Mana Wahine is such a brilliant class. Hineitimoana Greensill guides her class through the labyrinth that can be somewhat misconstrued as modern feminism, to the narratives we all know and live as Mana Wahine.

For my own journey, Mana Wahine is a class that teaches about the beauty, struggle, triumph, memory, and therapy wahine Māori navigate daily in this modern, ever focused on the one, commercial world, and how remembering who we have always been; the tūpuna (wāhine) of the next generation of tūpuna, since before we were born, is one of the keys to uplifting our whānau and ourselves.

This journey acknowledges various wahine in various positions of interest. Wāhine Māori in the Arts, wāhine Māori in positions of whenua, wai, takutai, whānau and taonga protection (calling to action), wāhine Māori in Law and politics, wāhine Māori in Healthcare, in education, at work, at home, ahikā, at the pā, on the farm. This journey acknowledges wāhine from the harakeke roots up. This journey acknowledges the synergy between wāhine and tāne and the mana they each embody and share. This class, though wahine centred, acknowledges that mana wahine cannot exist without mana tāne.

I really frikkin love my papers. Have I mentioned that already?

Anyway, the creative art assignment and cutting straight to the chase …

This is the piece I did for my Critical Response assignment. I’m frikkin proud of it now … now. I wasn’t so sure when I first handed it in for marking. The assignment was based on the Mana Wahine Speaker Series held on the first Wednesday of every month, and gave us the opportunity to hear kaupapa kōrero from Indigenous People’s in the academic circle by the likes of Ngahuia Murphy, Aroha Yates-Smith, Nālani Wilson-Hokowhitu etc. It’s an amazing series. Enlightening. Educational. Uplifting.

The assignment called for students to respond to one of the speaker series’ kōrero and interpret it in a medium of our choosing, whilst considering the kaupapa of the kōrero with regard to the impacts of colonisation on te taha wahine and how wahine/tāne Māori have been responding to this. Brilliant topic.

I chose to interpret, “Tū te turuturu nō Hine-te-iwaiwa: Mana wahine geographies of birth in Aotearoa New Zealand”, by Naomi Simmonds. I’m purposely not posting about it because I think it needs to be read about, such is the imagery within it. If I lend anything to this, it is that, what Naomi Simmonds’ shared with us was the determination of our tūpuna whaea to do all that needed to be done for the betterment of their people. That despite all that can come with being a child of Māori descent, the challenge is not to drown in the weight of the tide, rather, become part of the tide and transform it into something positive – as Naomi put it, “…the circularity of never ending beginnings”.

Please note that I’m nowhere near what I would call hardcore artistic. I literally watched youtube clips and searched the net on how to draw babies and practiced and practiced, for weeks – all day, every day, to draw Pēpi for this assignment as, although I love drawing and being creative (both in art and words), I’m still learning to love whatever work I put out. I usually scrunch up my face, yell out “Yeeeuch!”, die inside, then throw the offending work away. As you can imagine, it can be difficult to learn to draw a baby with just an iphone on hand when you want to try to get the proper dimensions for something. My paper shredder got a good workout; my chickens had enough bedding to fill a sleeping bag while I was learning to draw Pēpi. Needless to say, I’ve learned that, if the work is done from the heart and is done with the notion of tika and pono in mind, anything is possible.

Mana Wahine assignment for wordpress
I called it, “Ancestors are born; shame is made”

Follow. Unfollow.

Ihumātao.

EDIT: Originally written back in August/Sept 2019.

The very mention of this beautiful, near untouched, peaceful whenua has me thinking of lush māra, a maunga standing tall, the people of the whenua giving as much to the whenua as the whenua gives to her. Of birth, life, living, love, lore, death and the continuation of the cycle, because that’s what cycles do, perpetuate forward movement and growth.

Instead, Ihumātao battles and is embattled with the prospect of homes being built on her that will forever sever and impact the connection the people of that land have, with that land, by a company who has the power to stop the build. Because they bought the land … off a family who was ‘gifted’ the land, by someone who stole that land, because he wanted it.

What is on that whenua? Wāhi tapu/sacred ground. Burial grounds. Middens. Narratives pertaining to an entire people pre colonisation. Much more than these few items. But nothing of monetary value, because everything that once had value was stripped from the land. Including its people.

What for?

For the betterment of progress.

What do you mean, progress?

The act of making a place better for the community.

What community?

Auckland.

And what will Auckland give back to the land and the people who live on, through and for her?

Nothing.

So why are the people of that land being evicted from their whenua?

Because those who bought it want it. It’s theirs now. Get your shit. Get out.


Wow.

As Māori, everything we are, connects to whenua. The whenua touches the sea, which churns the winds, which play on the rays of the sun showing us Ranginui who cries for his beloved, our kuia, Papatūānuku, who is clothed by Tāne who allows us to harvest his children for some of our many material things – do you see where I’m headed with this? Everything we are, as Māori, connects to the whenua. The land is us and we are the land.

So what does this mean for Ihumātao? The whenua will be there as long as someone is bold enough to fight for it and you bet Pania Newton and everyone who stands beside and behind her, are it. They are protectors, not protestors. Whenua is forever, especially when it is taken care of. Pania is doing great things for the people of Auckland and for Aotearoa by wanting to see Ihumātao protected, but she is doing even greater things for her own people in safeguarding their whenua from the steely grip of development. Stand tall koutou ma. #Ihumātao #protectorsnotprotestors

Māori261: He taonga tuku iho – Evolving Māori and Pacific Art

Māori261 was taught by Regan Balzer this semester, like, was a mega fan of hers already, then haramai, she’s my art lecturer!?! Such a wicked paper.  Like I said in my Decol blog – FMIS has THE COOLEST, most knowledgable and evocative lecturers in i te AO!

Anyway, admittedly I was shit scared to join it at first, which is not a massive deal – I’ve been slightly shit scared throughout my entire uni journey thus far – I like to keep that little bit of fear in me; it keeps me on my toes and stops me from becoming complacent.

The paper itself walks tauira through Māori and Pacific Art, artists and their methods; social, political, cultural and spiritual context and influences, and also guides tauira to look deeper into their own artistic ability; allows them to have belief in themselves and the beauty they can create when they are supported. Like I said, wicked paper – one that perfectly compliments the other papers taught through FMIS. It rounds off your second year nicely, I found.

As with all subjects, our assignments pertained to what we learned and practiced. The assignment for 261 was to implement what we learned and translate that into an art piece. The criteria was simple: Use repetition, composition and design of Māori or Polynesian patterns to create three artworks, each of which responding to a current kaupapa.  They were to be as monochromatic as possible, if possible and utilise positive and negative space. Part of the assignment was to choose a venue where we could all exhibit our pieces. We all wanted to exhibit in FMIS as some of the classrooms were empty, but it didn’t feel right – I think we were all just pōuri that refurbishment on the classrooms is happening soon and we felt like we should just choose elsewhere. De Stylez Studio Mix on Collingwood Street, came to our rescue with Regan’s guidance. Perfect venue. The energy there is calm, but vibrant – gushes with love.  We were all so nervous to exhibit that, although we told people about the exhibition to begin with, we intentionally went quiet about it the closer the exhibition date got. Much to our pleasure, the only people outside our class who came to view our mahi was my mini iwi, aka, my husband and my kids – who ended up providing background music for us as we set up our exhibition and while we networked … with each other, bahaha (De Stylez is a cafe and sound studio; has space to exhibit art and a stage with gear if anyone wants a jam).

Strangely enough, or not so, all of our pieces started out as being about the assignment question, but ended up being about our own journeys.

My piece started out as a response to many kaupapa, Indigenous in general, that I felt overlapped:

  • the fires in the Amazon
  • the dumping of dredge waste 25km of the coast of Aotea
  • Ihumātao
  • Mauna Kea
  • Idle No More
  • MMIW – Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
  • Suicide rates within Māori and Island communities
  • Hands off our tamariki
  • the place in New Zealand land wars history that still manages to exclude Māori
  • Climate change, which affects every living, breathing entity on the planet

the list is endless, almost devouring; and that’s how I began my assignment.

Somewhere along the way it became more about how I fit in that world, and how mātauranga/knowledge, of my surroundings, of my position as wife, mother and sole female and therefore role model for my sons and how they may perceive relationships later on. Adding to that, layers of my tuakiritanga/identity; this whole uni process has been reawakening those layers left tucked away in a vacuum sealed bag in my brains filing cabinet, blowing the dust off them and allowing them to breathe. I’m remembering how much I really frikkin enjoyed drawing and painting as a mode of personal expression and outlet for emotion. It’s been a long time, let’s just leave it at that.

Anyway, so, remembering that it’s been decades since I did any kind of thing artistic, this is my assignment:

Reclamation of self

Ink on Acetate

Andrea King: Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa.

First layer: the whāriki, represents the foundation I choose to have supporting and centring me (extra special to me as it was made by my aunty from Motukaraka). Hands hold the folder; preparing.

Screen Shot 2019-10-19 at 2.49.08 PM

Two: Black folder, white inlay. This part is threefold:

  1. Portraying manipulation of a contemporary, every day scholastic item, reminiscent of the educational system our tūpuna have had to navigate and endure as Māori.
  2. Portraying the feeling of a person of Māori descent using something for that particular moment only, until I need it again, much like the ‘dial a Māori’ concept we know all too well.
  3. Opening the top, solid exterior. Allowing whatever is beneath to peek out and eventually reveal itself.

Three: Silhouette. The background shows the ingrained inadequacies felt over the decades. The silhouette also shows desire to seek knowledge, to understand.

Picture1

Four: Hair. Each layer of ‘hair’ represents a new layer of consciousness and acknowledgement; a reimaging, of everything I see that seeks to reclaim my melanin  and remind my wairua that, even as a child, trying to scrub the brown out of my skin, my heart was always anchored in te ao Māori.

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Five: Facial features and moko kauae. Who I have wanted to be for the longest time. I remember walking down my nan’s hallway as a kid and always being in awe of my tūpuna in our walls. None of them had kauae or mataora though – they were all from the generation after Hone Heke and his siblings … that was 6 generations ago … my children are the seventh generation. I used to have dreams of my kauae being chiselled into my skin, pērā ki ngā wā o mua. The pain I felt in my dream would wake me and I’d reach for my chin – as a kid that was always disappointing, to wake up without it. The last layer is life in a skin that is proud of its journey. Reclamation of self.

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Five: Closing the folder. Closing the folder, which has now been used for its purpose and therefore no longer needed, means that. I chose the colour of the folder because it was black, and because black has many meanings in te ao Māori, all of which, have a duality to them, as in, Te Kore being the void and the potential. After the folder is closed, my foundation, which has been there the whole time, waits for me, and strengthens me to keep moving forward.

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I became two separate components. The first piece was a moving image (where the top images came from) that could be played off a usb, hence the manipulation of the folder. The second component was the still, mounted image:

Reclamation of self
Reclamation of Self. Ink on Acetate. Andrea King: Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa. 2019.

It was awesome to see my classmates thoughts, aspirations and dreams come to life at that exhibition. It was a beautiful feeling to see what we had all talked about for weeks, and to see what Māori 261 had taught us all. It’s true, everyone has a love of art in them, and everyone is creative. My classmates are proof of that.

So what have I learned from this class?

  1. I absolutely adore Cliff Whiting to bits.
  2. The ‘E Hina e, E hine e’ exhibition opened my eyes more to the art world because I was able to put into practice what I learned, first hand.
  3. Pointilism is fkn hardcore … RSI for your art is gangsta.
  4. Now that I know what kumara look like in kōwhaiwhai I see them eeeverywhere and have no shame in saying I see them, “Ooooh look, kumara!”. Yes. My kids loooove it 😀

Again, the list is endless. This paper, like every paper I take at FMIS, is a part of my whāriki, my tuakiritanga; and just like every other paper I’ve taken through FMIS thus far, I WISH each one was a year long so as to fully delve into each kaupapa and devour it.

I loved this class. It’s reawakened my love of creating. Am currently on the lookout for a secondhand easel.

 

I’ve gotta Golden ticket

I received a letter in the mail the other day … well, it came on Saturday 30 March

-Woohoo! Not a bill!!

The address was stickered on and from the uni, so I naturally assumed the worst:

  • Holy shit, they’re kicking me out
  • They saw the photos I took from the protest, didn’t like them … and are kicking me out
  • They’ve realised they’ve made a mistake in accepting my enrolment … and are kicking me out
  • They saw what I blogged about the terrorist attack last month … and are kicking me out
  • They’ve seen my marks and thought, “Who tf let that idiot in!?!” and are kicking me out

My mind is like that god awful duracell bunny at the best of times and it goes all day, all night (Mary-anne).

I was wrong.

It was an invitation to the Golden Key International Honour Society, which is a student organised and run international academic network that opens its doors to the top 15% of high academic achieving students in universities/colleges around the globe, and within any discipline. It’s a service based network. A friend said, “Like Rotary” and I liked it a little more … I always liked Lions’ lollies.

The GKIHS provide undergrad and postgrad scholarships, grants etc, personal and professional development, mentoring, global networking and has other opportunities beneficial to those who are eligible and are wanting to join.

I looked at the letter from uni, the accompanying letter from the GKIHS and the GKIHS information pamphlet for a moment, read every word on each piece of paper – twice, looked at the images on the pamphlet, the letterhead, the frikkin addresses, the letters ‘GK’ in navy blue with the golden key in the middle on the top lefthand side of the letterhead, then I held the papers out to my husband and said,

-I don’t get it.

He read them briefly and said, “Mean!”. It didn’t help. He asked what I didn’t understand and I explained that I wasn’t sure why I’d received the letters. I didn’t say it like that though … more like, let it all fall out of my face like this:

-They must’ve sent them to the wrong person

-I’m not an academic

-I have to work hard as for my marks, and most of the time I get things wrong. Academics are brainy mofo’s

-They definitely sent these to the wrong person, look, it says these are only sent out to the top 15%. Yep, definitely not me

-If they knew I was Māori they’d most probably send another letter saying they’d made a mistake

-There’s no way they’d even think of letting me stay a member if I slipped, so there’s no way they meant to send it to me

-There’s probably about 60 women with the same or varied versions of the same name at uni. This is definitely not mine

-It’s a fluke

-There’s no way I’d deserve something like this.

-There’s no fkn way I’m good enough for this

-They wouldn’t have sent it to me if they knew I was in my 40’s.

You know, as hard as I tried I just couldn’t, for the life of me, be proud, even for one second, that I actually achieved something academically. I literally stamped every inch of myself and any feeling of pride into the ground as I read the print and as I said the verbal diarrhoea. I didn’t even need to be forced to say or think it – it all just flowed and came naturally.

Why the crap did I do that?!

GKIHS
Proof

I didn’t realise I’d done it until class (MĀORI100. Kōkiri: Academic Skills for Indigenous Studies) yesterday, and it hit home this morning during MĀORI203 (Decol) that this is what Māori … no, I shouldn’t try to speak for anyone else … this is what I do. The notion that I am only good at the things I’ve been told I’m good at – the notion that I was only ever going to be good at doing the things I was bred to do (including making babies from a young age – thanks Mrs F and thanks inlaw ‘aunty’) – that’s why I didn’t believe I had earned or deserved the letters or pamphlet. There’s still a part of me that believes I am only good for …

Nothing makes me angrier than hearing those same phrases come out of the mouths of Māori who I see and hear saying the same things. Why does it hurt me more to hear them say these same things about themselves?  Because their thoughts mirror my thoughts? Because they’ve all been told the exact same discourse I have? Probably. Why do I still allow myself to think this way when I DO work my ass off to be at uni, I DO want and deserve to be there, I WANT more Māori in this network and I want more Māori to know they DESERVE to be in that top 15% of high achieving students at uni fullstop. Why has it taken me so long to allow myself to think this is ok? Shit, even saying that receiving the letters is ok, is difficult.

All of this realisation came from the mixture of two of my papers: 203 and 100. Both specialise in different aspects of decolonisation but both tie in to one another in that they open the eyes and mind to what has always been under the surface of my skin. They make me see the uncomfortable; the right and the wrong. The logic and the insanity that permeates my skin and culture. All I can say is, we as a culture have always been more than manual labour. We have always been more than pepper potting, always more than child bearers, dole bludgers and cleaners. We are more than we realise. We need to wake up. I need to wake up. I mean, geez, I am raising my boys to believe they will be whatever they want to be in life, they are good members of society. They have good hearts, minds and bodies with which to take them wherever they wish, so long as they remember where they come from, to always use their manners, always give kaimoana, especially, to kuia and kaumātua first (because they can’t get it themselves), babies and kaumātua/kuia go first for hākari, where the spare house key is, to always give māmā a hug when they come home and don’t touch the washing machine settings. Ever. 


I wish I was my 15 year old, bolder and brasher self in times like these. She’d be screamin’ like a banshee, laughing her ass off with pride about it all and hugging anyone and everyone, telling them to reach higher than high. Because she deflected crap better than 42 year old me does.


Since class this morning I’ve given myself time to process a little. I’m prepared to say that, while it’s difficult to be confident in being 100% be proud of myself, I am working on being appreciative for being eligible enough to join the Waikato Uni chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society. I’m not, however, going to join. I see the benefits, I see the opportunities but I also see time I don’t have to offer to it, to give service to a kaupapa I cannot outrightly say would benefit Kaupapa Māori in any means or fashion, and a part of me is just glad to acknowledge the achievement quietly. It’s going into my draw, as a reminder of sorts, that I did good. I’ll leave this sort of thing to the young bucks of Maoridom. I’ll encourage them like that screaming aunty from the sidelines that EVeryone has in their family’s instead.

I am appreciative.

NB: (Mon, 22 Apr) Since posting this, many of my friends and whānau have found out that I received the invitation and growled me for not joining. They reminded me of something that I tell my boys: “Your success is our success. Your pride is ours. Hold your head up and remember who you are”. Still getting growlings from my aunty and uncles’ at 42 years of age – so obviously I’ve joined, and am trying to take the other Māori students with me. Thanks aunty and uncle – you keep my head straight.