Whose World.

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I’m going to wade into this debate in much the same way I would a sediment laden, dodgy smelling stream. A little resentfully, and not really enjoying it.

I’m not a fan of pageants – even when indigenous  women take top place and use the position to bring awareness to important issues – I still struggle to see any intrinsic value to this weird ritual that reminds me a little bit of the livestock parade at the A&P show. They are cisgender normative, outdated, retrogressive hangovers that are, at their core, demeaning, superficial, and misogynist. I know a lot of very intelligent and well-meaning women enter them – I wish they wouldn’t. The Miss World NZ website writes effusively about the “Beauty with a Purpose” theme of the pageant which attempts to make a superficial judging of appearance ok by coupling it with community service. It’s depressing to have to point this out in 2015: Your, or anyone’s, construct of physical beauty has SWEET F.A. to do with purpose, or value. Miss Universe, Miss World, and any other pageant who disqualifies you for having had a child, or parenting a child, or having been married – and judges you based on your appearance in a swimsuit and an evening gown, in addition to a brief personality interview – can just go and get naffed.

miss world rulesjudging criteria miss universecriteria

naaaaaaafff orrrrrrf….

That said there is a broader issue at play, with Lambie-gate, that I do wish to comment on.

It should be said, first and foremost, that I do not in any way condone bullying. Online or anywhere else. Some of the posts towards Deborah Lambie have been outright attacks. Some of the people I love most dearly in this world have come out in strong defence of Deborah, and spoken against the vitriol being sent toward her and the tutor she hired. For some of them this has triggered memories of cultural shaming that many of us, at some point or another (myself included) have experienced and they have used this issue to highlight the problematic nature of cultural shaming. Ka pai (so long as you’re not actually making this about you standing up for the time you got shamed). Many of Deborah’s, and her tutor Kereama’s, supporters, say that her heart was in the right place and this is what mattered. That she was guided by a kapa haka expert and going through him was the right thing to do. That Kereama followed a sound process – and everything is fine, and so let’s not get all judgey judgey ok? Ya meanies.

First of all, we should divest ourselves of the rhetoric, and that applies to both sides. Just because someone does not agree with what has happened here, does not mean that they condone or support bullying; nor that their concerns, some of which are entirely valid, constitute bullying. Does Deborah deserve to be called all manner of names? No. Are there some very valid concerns regarding this turn of events? Well to my mind, yes, and we should be able to talk about them without being lumped with the bullies. So let’s put the bully behaviour to the side (seeing as we all agree it’s uncalled for) and talk about the issues that still require, and deserve, dialogue here.

Let’s start with the issue of unequal standards. Miss World has an altogether RIGOROUS set of standards, as do the various national level pageants. In addition to requiring what John Oliver calls a “mint condition uterus” – contestants are expected to turn themselves out in nothing less than their very finest attire. A standard of excellence is expected of their dress, their behaviour, their health, their appearance, their personality, their charm. This is, after all, an international competition. Excellence is to be expected.

Except of course for haka. When it comes to haka, the important thing is that you gave it a shot and your heart was in the right place.
Now, the appropriateness of the other criteria aside – Honestly I’m at a loss as to why haka does not deserve a standard of execution excellence in the same way that the other criteria do. If anything, I would hope that your aptitude in cultural representation is accorded more mana than how you fill an evening gown. And here is where we get to the ngako of the issue: there is a structural failing in the Miss World, New Zealand pageant system that fails Maori just as much as pageants intrinsically fail women.

Let’s look, again, at the qualifying criteria for Miss World NZ:

miss world rules
That third to last line: “Have knowledge of the culture and values of New Zealand”.

Again – I’d love to know – what depth of knowledge, and what type of culture, were Deborah’s qualifications assessed by in order for her to win this national title? As she’s already admitted – prior to this competition, she has never spoken Maori nor been involved in haka. I’m not sure whether she is aware of the very political issue (for Maori) of cultural competency in NZ (and for that matter, I’m not sure if her tutor is aware of them also – because, you see, being an expert in kapa haka does not necessarily mean you are familiar with the political and social ramifications of cultural integrity. He may well be aware of them, but my point is that one does not necessarily equal another, and assuming he can be the cultural reference point for all of these things is also problematic).

Seeing as the “qualification” just above cultural knowledge is a level of familiarity with national political issues, I would like to think she is aware of this very political issue for Maori – but the assumption that one without any prior involvement in reo or haka can learn it in six weeks to a standard that would “showcase” or pay homage to Maori culture is, at best, naïve.

But to bring this back to the system – how does someone manage to win a title that places her in an ambassadorial role for our nation, one that requires knowledge of the culture and values of our land – when that same person, by her admission and that of her tutor, has NO prior knowledge of the culture of the first PEOPLE of this land?

I dungeddit.

Oh no wait I do. Systemic and institutional racism. That stuff which exists in our justice and corrections system that leads to unjust levels of incarceration for Maori and Pacific Islanders. That economically disadvantages us, forcing us to live far from our cultural womb, isolating us from our most authentic, ancestral, learning spaces. That same system which makes it much more likely for one kind of New Zealander to be a doctor, and another kind to be a patient. It’s the kind that means that for the duration of your medical education you would have only been required to take a minimal amount of papers on Maori realities, even though we are the culture upon which this land is built – and even though we are more likely to fill your patient list. That stuff that exists in our education system, which erases our history, and assimilates our tongues and minds, and makes Maori the “other” in our own land. That doesn’t accord Te Ao Maori the same depth of relevance, in the school experience, as English, Maths or Science. That stuff that makes a year 12 education compulsory, but knowledge of the first people of this land a “nice to have”.

See – that’s exactly the system which leads to someone, with the very best of intentions, hiring a tutor to teach them whatever they can in 6 weeks – and the lack of Non-Maori political attention paid to issues of Maori cultural competency means that the gravity, and repercussions, of this issue can be entirely escaped by the student, and the tutor, until it is too late – and can be easily downplayed or neglected in the subsequent discussion. This system placed all of them in a vulnerable position.

I am very glad that Kereama Te Ua spoke up to take ownership for his role as the kaiako. Again – I don’t think the outright verbal assault on social media was warranted, or dignified, or right. I disagree with those who say that you invite such abuse when you place yourself on the public stage. Valid criticism and abuse are different. I have to say though – that the grey area between the two may be crossed because our people are, overall, tired at seeing our own ways continually minimalized. I have NO problem with haka wahine. I have NO problem with Non-Maori learning about and taking part in haka – we have an abundance of non-Maori in Matatini, and so very many Non-Maori allies who are beautiful, strong and important parts of our story.

I very much have a problem with a system that disempowers the mana of the people of the land, relative to that of other cultures.

And here, we have the response from Deborah herself:

deborah response

Now. Deborah’s aforementioned assumption notwithstanding, I have tried to limit my discussion to the system rather than the individual. But I read this response, and it made me bristle.

You see, Deborah: this is not a culture from your country. It is the culture of your country. By rights, all New Zealanders should be raised with a level of familiarity and fluency in Maori. But we’re not, because it has been historically erased, minimalized and is consistently seen as optional. That means that you and I can grow up in the same country, and yet inhabit completely different worlds. That means that systemically I’m likely to be much more disadvantaged than you. If we step back, and look at this from a multigenerational perspective, that consistent minimalisation and disadvantage – has contributed to a lack of cultural wellbeing, and an “othering” of Maori – issues that have direct economic, health, and social implications for the family lines of people like me, but not for family lines of people like you.

We are a complex people, given to spirited debate. We are a wounded people, given to fierce defensiveness of what we have left. We are a weary people, and the fatigue of seeing approximations of our ways can, at times, be too much. We’re not walking away from the challenge of working together for a better country for all of us. We never have – in fact that is the very struggle we have been engaged in for 155 years now and will continue to be engaged in for the sake of our survival.

If you want to be a doctor to my people (and you most likely will) – I have expectations of you, and that will include you seeing the INTRINSIC value of Maori culture – not just because it might make you a better doctor (and of course it will) but because you know it will make you a better New Zealander. Ideally, you would have understood, held, and acted, upon this value long before being prompted to through a pageant.

If you want to be an ambassador for my Aotearoa – I have expectations of you, and I am unapologetic for that. They extend beyond a six week crash course in haka. They will include an appreciation and understanding of the nuance of challenges we face in relation to cultural integrity and historical trauma. They will include an understanding of the spiritual and political nature of what you place on an international stage, and what that means for us. They will include a baseline appreciation of reo and tikanga. They include an understanding that the very best of our allies do not seek to speak for us, but to empower and support our voices wherever possible. I honestly DON’T care what you look like in a swimsuit or evening gown – if you have seriously committed yourself to these with an understanding of their vital importance and mana IN ORDER to adequately represent my Aotearoa – you will be all things beautiful, to me. I’m confident you can be this.

Understand this, though – your interest in the Maori culture is not a favour to me. It is a favour to yourself, and the rightful duty of all who call themselves New Zealanders. I support your interest, I celebrate it, but it is not something that I am responsible for. In much the same way – I am not responsible for anyone who chooses NOT to take it up, or to walk away from it because they are uncomfortable.

See – we don’t get to walk away from the discomfort we experience as Maori in the MULTITUDE of culturally unsafe spaces that we are forced to navigate, in our own land, every day. In our schools and universtites, or in the council chambers, or being stopped by police, or in the courtrooms, or in business, or in the hospital, or seeking houses.

You ask me “Are we for each other? For creating a future where we can work together to reduce inequality and encourage understanding between each other? Or will we be so critical of others who have made steps to do so, that others will be afraid to try?”

I don’t know, Deborah – are you “for me”? If you are, how long have you been “for me”? Were you for me 7 weeks before the pageant, or 7 years before the pageant?

You want to co-create a future with better understanding between each other… will you seek to understand what sits beneath the concerns for this issue, or will you exacerbate the issue by blaming us for the lack of cultural knowledge amongst pakeha New Zealanders, rather than the hugely racist system that makes our cultural knowledge inaccessible for Non-Maori AND many Maori. I hear this line of “no wonder nobody wants to learn about Maori culture” so often and honestly it’s annoying. Learning the culture of this land is NOT something you should want to put on like a hat you like one day and don’t like the next. It is a part of you, through being a part of this land. If we hadn’t have had our culture ripped from us and systematically erased from our collective national knowing in the first place – then the issue of people accessing it, or being defensive about it, or being afraid of it, or “wanting” to learn it, or whatever, would be a moot point wouldn’t it?

I wholeheartedly support your move to learn more about the first people of your land. You strike me as a genuine person with good intentions, and I hope fervently that your journey will provide a greater understanding of how issues such as this play out for Maori futures.

And pageants still suck.

Apricot and Ginger Glazed Carrots

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Yummy, healthy and and easy waste free dish for the table these holidays. Everything in this recipe can be easily grown, sourced from farmers markets or bulk supply.

INGREDIENTS

Apricot and Ginger Glaze

20 apricots

5 thin slices of fresh ginger

1 tblsp of sesame seeds

Halve apricots and remove the pips,  add ginger and cook down, stirring occassionally over a medium heat until it breaks down to a pulp. Push mixture through a sieve to separate the pulp from the sauce. Stir sesame seeds through the sauce and hey presto there’s your glaze (add honey/sugar/salt to taste but I like it just as is). The remaining pulp can be kept, sweetened and used in a pie or crumble.

15 small to medium sized carrots

3-4 bulbs of garlic

8 shallots (yes you can swap for red onions)

a few sprigs of thyme

2 tablespoons of apricot and ginger glaze

1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds (optional)

Olive oil (or any cooking oil)

Salt and pepper
1. Wrap your garlic bulbs in baking paper. You CAN roast them in the bulb without paper but they will likely come out soft and pasty. Wrapping them in paper makes sure the cloves still keep their shape once roasted. Place in the middle of the oven at 180 c for about 20mins.


2. While the bulbs are roasting prepare the rest. First wash the shallots and quarter them intoa large bowl. The tops can be kept and sliced into salads (especially yummy when sliced into potato salad).


3. Then wash and cut your carrots. Make sure your carrot pieces are roughly the same size as your shallot quarters. Drizzle oil over the carrots and shallots, sprinkle witha little salt and pepper and stir. Here is a great link for reusing the carrot tops to grow more carrot plants.

 

4. By now your garlic should be ready and removed from the oven. Place the carrots and shallots in a single layer on a tray and roast in the middle of the oven and roast for about 15min.

5. While that’s roasting, peel your garlic cloves and toss through the remainder of the oil in the bowl you had the carrots and shallots in.


6. After about 15min your carrots should be ready to take out. Empty them into the bowl with the garlic, add your apricot/ginger glaze and thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper then toss it in the bowl untill all of the carrots and shallots are coated.

 

 

7. Return the mixture to the oven (again, single layer is best) and roast for another 10-15min  or until it’s caramelised (watch closely to make sure it doesn’t burn)

 

8. Remove, place in bowl, sprinkle with a few extra sesame seeds and serve.


Mauriora!

Dear Maori Art Student.

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So I want to blog, separately and distinctly, to the korero I delivered as a part of my panel presentation at Toioho XX – the 20 year celebrations for Toioho Ki Apiti School of Maori Visual Art.  First of all – it was an absolute honor to be sharing the stage with Bridget Reweti, Huhana Smith and Charlotte Graham – wahine toa who have committed themselves to taiao through their art practices and narratives. I have huge respect for what they do and what they produce – aesthetically, philosophically and politically.

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Bridget, myself, Huhana and Charlotte – Environmental Ministries, Preaching the Art. ToiohoXX.

I want to blog this kōrero, again, not only to reiterate some of the drivers behind my journey but because there were things that I didn’t actually get to say, on stage, that I think it’s important to say.

In particular – I have a couple of things I want to say to those of you studying Toi Māori.

Well, one thing really.

Whakapapa.

It was whakapapa that was invoked by Waziyatawin when I heard her say, back in 2013, that when the land is hurting, the people of the land will feel it first – and that the true tragedy of this lies in the fact that we, as indigenous people, have become complicit in this dilemma. I was reminded of my obligations to taiao that are visually represented in a whakapapa chart that we have up in our wharenui in Rangitukia, a chart that maps our family’s distinct connections to various insects, plants, sea mammals, and birds. I was reminded of our wharenui Taharora and the insects and plants holding place in our carved and painted pantheon alongside our ancestors. I was reminded of the whakapapa that I have worn in our korowai, our taniko, in our piupiu, and inked into my skin

It was whakapapa that the Mana o te Moana voyagers invoked in their incredible journey around the Pacific, calling upon the world to understand what we are doing to our ancestor and Atua, Tangaroa and Hinemoana and what we are doing to ourselves through them.

It was our whakapapa to Toroa that I was working on through a tukutuku panel at that time (of course the pattern was Roimata Toroa – the tears of the albatross). It was whakapapa that came crashing around my ears like a relentless storm surge when I came to understand what we, as a society, was doing to Toroa. What I, through my complicitness in these systems, was doing to Toroa.

It was my whakapapa – represented through the voices of my tipuna within our mahi toi – that spurred me into action.

It’s our whakapapa to the land, sky and sea that surrounds my students when we learn on the marae, and that same context that makes the wharenui the most logical space for teaching about the environment from a Māori perspective. It’s whakapapa speaking to us in these spaces… and although the message may vary, it will always underpin, ancestrally, our relationship, dependency, and obligations to taiao.

When I was in Japan, it was whakapapa that was so patently missing. I was in the middle of this conference, listening to the laments from every corner about the difficulty in integrating this idea that we are in an interdependent relationship with the environment around us. A relationship that holds obligations. I was already keenly aware of our own potential to guide that process when I went into the workshop on Arts Education and Sustainability.

This is where I need you to really pay attention. Don’t drift off or go check your facebook notifications.

You see – the environmental crises we face, as a planet – the global warming and global food shortage, the rising sea levels that are literally drowning our pacific cousins, the global water crisis, the pollution, the waste, the violent conflict that gets in the way of us even relating to each other let alone the common soil beneath our feet, the unprecedented loss of species. ALL of these issues have been known about for some time now… at least a couple of decades. And for all of our promises and efforts – we’re not even close to halting, or even slowing down, any of those issues. The status quo solution models are. not. working – and the consequences for that couldn’t be more dire.

We need divergent thinkers. Innovative solutions. Creative minds. We need people who can think outside of the box. We need those who can communicate across cultural and linguistic barriers.

We need artists.

Most importantly – we need people who can do all of this in a way that integrates and reminds us of our shared ancestral, spiritual and physical relationship to the environment.

We need indigenous artists.

We need you.

And so at this point I really want to know – what do you think you want to do with your art? With this amazing gift that has been passed down to you?

Do you want to hang it in a gallery? Make some money to make some more art to hang in more galleries?

Do you want to teach art? What will you teach your students? Will you teach them how to change the world with their voice?

Or will you teach them what a tree should like, or what a gallery might like a tree to look like? Or what other artists thought a tree looked like…

Because you absolutely have the capability to do so much more with your voice.

One of my most favorite Aunts once told me: “You are given your gift for the betterment of humankind. To not use it as such, is to the detriment of humankind”.

So again, I ask you – what do you plan to do with your gift?

Because humankind, and all other forms of life on this planet, require your gift – right now.

In this sense – Toioho Ki Apiti School of Maori Visual Arts at Massey really does hold a vital space in the landscape of innovative practice in indigenous art. It is a divergent, creative think tank – underpinned by the ancestral expressions of our whakapapa to our ancestors: human, ecological, and divine.

The Maori world is about whakapapa. Interconnectivity. It is the core principle of our existence. Toi Maori has a whakapapa and, as Papa Cliff Whiting pointed out in his plenary speech – it is spiritual, and ancestral, it extends beyond human ancestors and out to the universe around us and these facets can NEVER be overlooked or neglected.

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Papa Cliff Whiting speaking to the centrality of spirituality within Maori Art – ToiohoXX

And so I will ask you one final time – what will you do, as a Maori artist – with the vital gifts and talents that the world needs right now? The answer may lie in your conscientious choice of materials, in your process, in your kaupapa, or in a combination of any or all of these things.

But the very least – the VERY least I need to you know, right now – is your absolute potential to forge vital change. The MOST vital of changes. Don’t let anyone tell you that mahi toi is any less than this.

Make no mistake. This is a call to arms for Papatuanuku – without whom we will have no other plight to fight for.

Step up.

 

 

He Rerenga Toroa

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I’m on my way home now, from an amazing week of workshops, panel talks and presentations. I’m at once exhausted and exhilarated; my tinana is drained but my manawa is filled, and renewed.

The week started with a trip down to Hongoeka Marae, a good five hours south of Gisborne – to support the Conscious Roots Festival.

consciousrooter

A weekend of healing, of food sovereignty and healthy food systems, of ecologically centred housing and community systems, alternative energy workshops, performance and sound therapy, ancestral taonga puoro workshops… and into this beautiful space, I was invited to offer my musings on going plastic-free.  This is the home of Ngati Kimihia, Ngati Te Maunu and Ngati Haumia of Ngati Toa Rangatira. I have some whanau there, and a few friends as well – and it was wonderful to sit there on the mahau of their wharenui and discuss the dreams, hopes and various challenges they are facing on their journey to independence, and self-sufficiency, and wellbeing. Wiremu Grace, if you are reading this – your passion, and conviction, to move to ever more conscious ways of being in this world, in a way that honours the land we are on, and who we are and who we come from – well there is no greater or more honourable commitment in my books – kia kaha ra e te whanaunga.

I then spent a number of days at the NZ Political Studies 2015 Conference at Massey University –mixing with political scientists, educators, students and theorists, and thankfully more than a few people who bridge that space into practice as well. Veronica Tawhai developed a stream of Māori relevant workshops and panels that really was engaging for all backgrounds. The highlight for me was, without a doubt, the workshop delivered by Matike Mai Youth Group for Constitutional Transformation.

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Karena Karauria, Kelly Harrison, Veronica Tawhai, Richard Shaw, Nga Rauuira Puumanawawhiti schooling us all on how to engage with constitutional transformation.

It healed me, in another way, to see rangatahi so passionate to engaging with systems that can forge a better future for themselves. They completely redefined the space and taught EVERYONE what effective engagement looked like.  My heart was filled with pride watching them weave their magic, filled with hope and conviction, articulating, so very clearly, their expectations and intentions. It was also, for me, a deeply emotional experience as I considered the many rangatahi that are not with us today, who are experiencing the other end of the spectrum… the desolation and despair and lack of hope for a bright future. There are too many, there have been too many, and we are carrying this heavily right now. So to see this inspiring, enlivening, passionate work BY youth – it healed me. I was reminded of our Nanny Tuini Ngawai, sitting on a hill, contemplative of this ever changing world, what it means for the ways of her ancestors, for our kind, and for the youth, moving ahead into the future. I’m so sure, that were she there in that room it would have filled her with pride too.

Wednesday evening, I popped over to work with an awesome whanau group who are looking to engage with their waterways. In the drizzly rain, we stood there, brushing macroinvertebrates from rocks, checking water clarity, measuring ph levels, talking about the development of monitoring programs. These whanau were all there in their own time, at the invite of their whanaunga Reuben, not having engaged in this space before but understanding that there is no time like now to get involved, to take those first steps around growing their capacity – and that it may be aimed at something authoritative at some point, but for now it’s about getting in touch with their waterways and being involved in the wellbeing of their waterways. There were about a dozen there and honestly – these are moments that also make my heart sing… not just because I’m outside, in an awa rather than between four walls… but also because there are a whole DOZEN whanau members there, interested and engaged and passionate for all the right reasons. That’s huge.

A few meetings on Thursday, and then, on Friday, it was the kick off for the 20 year celebration of my alma mater – Toioho Ki Apiti, School of Maori Arts at Massey University, Palmerston North. Over 2 days, we celebrated the incredible journey of this school, from it’s inception, and the first group of students who included inspirational practitioners such as Huhana Smith and Charlotte Graham.

Exhibitions ran over 6 venues that included work from over 40 graduates and staff including Rangi Kipa, Ngahina Hohaia, current head of school Ngatai Taepa, Israel Tangaroa Birch, Shane Cotton, Kura Te Waru Rewiri, Simon Kaan, Areta Wilkinson, Steve Gibbs, Priscilla Cowie, Rachael Rakena, Tawera Tahuri, Reuben Friend, Tina Wirihana, Aimee Ratana, Erena Baker, Martin Langdon, Reweti Arapere, Hemi MacGregor… and the super impressive installation work done by the art collective Taipō – Bridget Reweti, Terri Te Tau and Rongomaiaia Te Whaiti. A visual and cognitive hakari laid out across the urban landscape of Papaioea.  On day 2, the Palmerston North Convention Center was the venue for the Toioho XX Symposium, where creators, curators, teachers, students, and lovers of art gathered to share discussions, through panel presentations and plenaries, on the past twenty years (and often beyond that), the current state of affairs, and the potential future of Māori Art here in Aotearoa, and abroad.

We were blessed, really blessed, to enjoy a panel discussion by those who have really forged the path for contemporary Maori art in Aotearoa – Marilyn Webb, Sandy Adsett, Cliff Whiting, Clive Arlidge, Fred Graham – all offering their reflections on the “Pine Taiapa” period – the time where Pine, and Gordon Tovey, together nurtured and ushered a new generation of artists, a new culture of pushing boundaries, of visual innovation, of ways that allowed us to be, and do, and create, that reflected our colonized realities, our ancestral underpinnings, our individual experiences of this world, our collective, and interactive voices and concerns. These titans of the Maori art world, whose names are heard from school years and whose artworks are pored over in books as we progress in learning the whakapapa of contemporary Māori art – were all manifest in front of us – human and humorous, and angry, and cheeky, retelling stories of mischief from this incredibly definitive era. This was, without a doubt, one of the most special experiences of my life that I will never forget.

12295372_10154142730851754_8980492249123536076_nThere were plenaries on the whakapapa of art, and the systemic conflicts between Maori art and Western art systems – there panel presentations on the history of the school, on the pursuit of mana through contemporary Māori art, and on collaborative processes and practices. All of them were moving, and inspiring, and invigorating – this was, without a doubt, the very best symposium I have ever attended. Seeing my academic whanau again, my classmates, my kaiako, those who nurtured me into the critical rantypants that I am…. THAT was heartwarming.

I’m going to write a bit more on the session that I took part in, in a moment, as a separate post but I wanted to sign this post off with a mihi to the man that really is responsible for this weekend being everything that it was.

Robert Jahnke began delivering Māori visual arts at Massey in 1995 along with Shane Cotton. Along the way he has worked with a formidable team of innovative and thoughtful Māori art educators such as Kura Te Waru Rewiri, Rangi Kipa, Brett Graham, Rachael Rakena, Ngātai Taepa, Saffron Te Ratana and Israel Tangaroa Birch. The calibre of artists and curators that have graduated from the BMVA and MMVA programs, many of whom are operating at the pinnacle of their fields today, who were all present at this reunion and symposium, really does speak to the amazing work and contribution that Professor Jahnke has offered the New Zealand art world. I was humbled to even just be in the room with most of them.  No doubt everyone has their reflections of him as their mentor, guide and teacher, but here are mine.

I remember, one evening, Bob telling me that he doesn’t see himself as an artist first and foremost – but as an art educator who is fortunate to also be able to create art himself. This surprised the socks off me because before meeting him I had always idolised the man as an artist, and had considered it a stroke of luck that he was also teaching and that I could enrol to learn under him.  I recall Bob as a guide on a learning process that gradually and gently unfolded each of us, like complex origami pieces, back to a form where we could critically examine the lines and folds of our history and political realities… and then empowering us to then reassemble ourselves, replete with our knowing of the processes that have gone into who we are. In this process we are politicised, we become charged with purpose, with critical confidence and self-awareness, with strong voices, with a passionate sense of enquiry and a bold willingness to challenge assumptions – and we are (and this is so important and was reiterated by Marilyn Webb) – supported to be WHO WE ARE.

Everything about this journey, if you have followed it from the early days, was earthed in my ancestral relationship to taiao, in my acute critical awareness of the role that Toroa, and taiao, plays in my world, AS IT MANIFESTS THROUGH OUR ART – it is earthed in my refusal to believe that it has to be this way and a passion to use my voice to give back to taiao.

For this, and for so much more – the trips to Waipiro Bay, the incredibly generous sharing of your time, support, and wisdom, the robust debates, the way in which you have guided our waka to Hawaiiki and back, your love and support for all of your students and their babies – kore e mutu aku mihi aroha ki a koe, e te rangatira.

Tina

Grieving As One.

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“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war and until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war.” Haile Selassie I
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I te tuatahi, te tika ka mihi aroha ki a ratou kua riro atu ki a Hinenuitepō. Rātou ngā ringa tū i te rangimārie, ehara rātou ngā toa pakanga, engari ka hinga tonu i raro i taua kaupapa. Ahakoa ko wai, ahakoa nō whea, ka tangi te ngākau mō koutou kua hinga, mō o koutou whānau i roto i te whare mate e noho ana, e tangi ana. Nō reira haere, haere, haere atu ra ki o koutou tīpuna, okioki ai.

I was given the honor yesterday of conducting karanga, in order to bring our students’ families into the pōhiri space for their end of year conference. It’s always an honour, and often a last second one. On this occassion I recalled one of the first karanga I was ever taught by one of my Aunts:

“Mauria mai o koutou mate, ki te taha o o mātou mate, kia tangi tātou katoa… haere mai”

Bring your dead with you, and lay them beside ours, so that we can grieve together.

Indeed, in our pōhiri processes, and even in our less formal greetings for groups, we acknowledge those that they may be grieving for, we offer them our love, and a space next to those we are grieving for. If it is very recent, then we specifically mention the tragedy – and we will often go out of our way to check if there is a tragedy that should be acknowledged for them.

And we do – we grieve for them all.

And today I’m absolutely grieving for our world. I’m grieving for those lost in Paris. I’m grieving for those lost in Kenya. I’m grieving for those lost in Beirut, and in Baghdad, for all of those who have never sought battle but have fallen to it anyway, and for a world that is torn apart by greed, manifesting as war.

Mauria mai o koutou mate, ki te taha o o mātou mate.

Bring your dead, and lay them beside ours.

I’ve never appreciated this aspect of our culture more than now.

Now, when those experiencing such immense loss around the world are feeling as though they just don’t matter.

Now, when those who ask to be joined to the grieving process, are being told to just “back off and let us grieve for this right now ok”.

Now, when lines are being drawn, and emotional hierarchy applied, because some people just seem more like “us”.

Now, when it feels, more than ever, that we need to be taking more notice, and connecting from a deeper place, to the grief, and suffering. of those who are NOT like us.

During the pōhiri, there are two distinct groups – the US and the THEM. It is a welcoming ceremony, but importantly it is one where we acknowledge each other’s different space, and our commonalities, and in doing so bridge our distance. Like the kaikaranga, the orators will also speak to those that have been lost for the visiting group – they will acknowledge the losses of others across the land, those that we know and that we don’t know – and we join our grief to theirs. There are also times that we will draw the lines of commonality between ourselves, and sometimes there are also lines of commonality between those that have passed as well.  Challenges are laid, solutions are sought, but always, there is a space for, and acknowledgement of, those lost.

The pōhiri process is one of navigating difference, of formalizing our separate spaces, and purposefully working towards a common space of trust and sharing.

Sometimes there is much common space.

Sometimes all we have in common, is our loss.

And that acknowledgement is often all that is required to bridge that distance between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

It feels inherently MĀORI to me, to acknowledge the losses of everyone. Not only because it is a part of the Māori experience to be marginalised by state and media… but also because this is something we are taught to do. Out of aroha, and out of practicality. Because for our tīpuna, the loss of human capital held great consequences – and so we MUST consider the broader context of loss – if only to mitigate its recurrence.

We cannot hope to have a healthy Mother until we are in a healthier space ourselves. So I will continue to grieve for all of us, I will continue to speak to the continued grief of the marginalized, and that is not to detract from your grief, but to invite us all together to grieve, as one.

Mauri ora.

Busting the Top 3 Fossil Fuel Industry Myths

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***This opinion piece was originally written for the Gisborne Herald, the newspaper for our region – which is currently debating the potential costs and benefits of allowing fossil fuel exploration off our coastline – at first I was asked for the references that informed my opinions, and upon supplying them, was told that I draw too long a bow. Rather than edit what I genuinely believe to be fair conclusions from the available science, I’ve opted to blog instead.
Self-censorship has never been my strongpoint.***

(image from Climate Justice Taranaki)

Although climate change has been discussed and debated for a number of decades, since 2009 the scientific community have managed to reach consensus around a range of climate change facts.

Like many other issues, it will often take a little bit of time for that consensus to reach a similar level of acknowledgement among the general populace, who are more susceptible to economic and political bias. Nonetheless, when faced with the economic ‘opportunities’ of fossil fuel extraction in our region, we must take full stock of the scientific findings, and actively dispel the myths. So let’s start the list:

MYTH ONE: The fossil fuel industry is well monitored and regulated to avoid environmental risk

The New Zealand Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment found in her 2014 report that our regulatory system is NOT adequate for managing the environmental risks of oil and gas drilling. This is exampled in Taranaki, where consistent, multiple consent breaches by the oil industry has resulted in considerable environmental damage.

Our inability to effectively respond to oil and gas crises was perfectly exampled by the highly criticized response to the Rena oil spill. Since then, we have experienced a further 363 spill related events, largely contributed to by offshore exploratory drilling, resulting in almost four tonnes of oil spilling into New Zealand harbours and oceans.

MYTH TWO: Investment in the fossil fuel industry is safe, and ethically permissible

The unavoidable obvious question being: “Is investing in the fossil fuel industry a reasonable, ethical move?” The scientific community is clear: NO.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), informed by thousands of scientists, are equally unambiguous: Nations must immediately begin the process of reducing carbon emissions to zero.

The current level of investment already poses too much risk, and further investment is suicide. Whatever carbon resources exist under the ground MUST stay there in order for us to keep our planet survivable.

If we consider the risk equation offered by the ESR crown research institute:


Likelihood
Well obviously the level of risk detailed above from our own Parliamentary Commissioner on the Environment, the multiple consent breaches, and the high level of oil spills, means that the likelihood = HIGH
Consequence
Oil spills have long term devastating consequences for marine environments, killing off bird life, fish life, marine mammals, algae and plantlife, and aquatic microorganisms, In addition to killing many sea dwellers, oil spills can also impact the health of those that survive. Oil can modify invertebrate feeding habitats, disrupt their shell development, and cause slow suffocation. Oil polluted environments have high carcinogenic consequences for all animals that are connected to that environment including humans. So consequence = VERY high.

Of course those are the immediate short term risks, the long term risks (which may be beyond the moral scope or capacity of some) of contributing to climate change are not just likely, but definite – and the consequences are irreversibly disastrous.

It is quite obvious, therefore, that investing in this activity places our region at high risk, and is therefore unethical.

Is it financially risky? Well, would you want to invest your money in the industry that is experiencing historically unequalled divestment, has an increasingly poor financial profile, and that the Governer of the Bank of England himself labels a huge risk? Which brings us to….

MYTH THREE: The fossil fuel industry will provide beneficial economic outcomes for our region.

Science has again spoken on the matter and it is clear: We cannot continue to invest in the fossil fuel economy, whilst entertaining the idea of a future. It is one, or the other, and the two are very much mutually exclusive.

The further risks involved in this investment include increased intensity and regularity of drought/flood events that will devastate our farming economy, extreme loss of species upon which the broader ecology (and economy) depends, loss of seafood and fish stocks, and the loss of water recreation sites upon which our tourism depends.

We cannot be guaranteed that these risks will be outweighed economic gains – and of course the long term damage can never be accounted for by short term economic gains. To take the economic example of Taranaki, according to the NZ deprivation index, the Taranaki region continues to experience extreme levels of deprivation. The rise in regional GDP and median income levels, when placed next to the rising levels of unemployment in Taranaki, indicates a concentration of wealth for a very small number. The increase in poverty for Taranaki corresponds with the general effect that fossil fuel investment has on other economies.

Fossil fuel investment is not the answer to our region’s economic deprivation. Next month the world’s leaders are gathering in Paris for crucial talks on climate change – NOT to consider the reality of the climate crisis, for that much is already agreed upon. Rather they are meeting to consider HOW to improve our responses to the crisis, at all levels.

To permit the growth of the fossil fuel industry in our region flies in the face of not only scientific opinion, but global, and local need – the only ethical response of our council can be to stand against it.

***To sign the petition asking GDC to OPPOSE oil and gas mining in the East Coast and Pegasus Basins, click HERE***

It’s About Us

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Along my path I’ve often come across people who question why I’m doing what I do – or they may admire the task of going plastic free and picking up plastic from the beach, but they admire it from a slight distance.

The common phrases are:

“Oh good on you – I’ve considered doing that but then I thought what difference can I realistically make? The problem is so huge”.

“Oh I take care of my own rubbish, you should really target the litterbugs – if they know you’ll pick it up they’ll just keep littering”.

“This is the responsibility of the businesses. Why should you clean up their mess?”

And my personal favourite:

“Why do you bother doing that? More rubbish will just wash up tomorrow”.

Now, all of those queries can be answered individually, quite easily – because my personal experience has shown me that one person’s journey CAN make a big difference, litterbugs DON’T suddenly get a conscience just because you stop picking up their litter, beach clean ups DO make a difference and we DO have a collective responsibility to address waste.

There is one fact that, for me, overrides all of these, though – and it’s one that’s often overlooked:

Picking up litter is, actually, much more about you than anything around you.

It’s not about whether you think you are, solely, fixing the problem. It’s not about whether the rubbish is yours or not. It’s not about whether you will influence wide change. It’s not about the change you make ‘out there’ at all.

It’s about the change you are making inside of yourself, and continue to make inside of yourself every time you take responsibility for our collective impact upon this planet. It’s understanding that we are in an abusive relationship with Mother Earth, and we are the abuser – and regardless of what the law says, we can, and must, do better. Not just for her, for ourselves.

Picking up rubbish is an act of self-redemption.

I had roughly 20 years of irresponsible consumption before I kicked my consciousness into high gear. That’s 20 years of investing in polluters by purchasing their goods, 20 years of creating unsustainable levels of waste, 20 years of treading heavily on Papatūānuku.

I have a lot to atone for.

But every time I make a better purchase, every time I repurpose, or reuse, or recycle… and especially every time I pick up a piece of litter, I feel like I’m getting a little bit closer to where I need to be.