“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
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.