Cultural identity: the complexities of being Māori.

I’m on the east coast. I’ve been here for the past week or so and I love it here. Our whānau has whakapapa here and I always enjoy myself here. I’ve been engaged in different kaupapa (projects) during my stay and some have had me thinking and feeling a type of way. Not just about ‘saying goodbye to 2018’ and preparing for 2019 and that carry on, but other things have unfolded and presented themselves, which I’ve left in the back of mind to let simmer and marinate.

Let me explain. No matter whether you enjoy being Māori or not..... have you ever considered how hard it is? Where to start? Not talking about the being Māori in a non-Māori space and trying to embody and uphold values.. that's hard too but a kōrero for another day... I mean, there’s the perceived criteria where someone somewhere’s made up a sort of checklist and criteria to ‘being Māori”,

there’s the dynamic of ahikā vs growing up or living away from tribal lands,

there’s the dynamic of belonging to more than one iwi and kind of choosing one but not not-choosing the others because all those whakapapa lines run through you and you uphold that, but you tend to know or identify more closely to one or two more than the others. There’s the inherent responsibility to be a scientist, environmentalist, activist, politician, navigator, peacemaker and then some - without the qualifications.

There’s this idea of ‘not being Māori enough’ or being ‘more Māori’ than another because of a, e, i, o, u… there’s the colonised idea, the oppressive idea that has contributed to how people identify with their Māoritanga, which are very limiting and very apart of the system we live in. There’s the iwi politics, the conflicts around land, trusts, and egos.

There’s the daily conflict of choosing whether or not it’s worth the hassle to correct the people who mispronounce your name, your tupuna’s name, and/or also the name of the area you live in/whakapapa to.

There’s seeing the effects of colonisation work so perfectly for which it was designed, that your people are perpetuating the oppressive behaviours and actions without encouragement, against themselves and their own. There’s a journey of reconnection after generations where te reo Māori (language) and te ao Māori me ōnā tikanga (worldview and customs) have been lost. There’s the rush of joy and excitement when you hear someone from your hapū/iwi or someone Māori doing well or making a positive impact in their space. There’s the emphasis of connection because it’s ingrained in our entire worldview and lifestyle.

Being Māori is complex.

Especially today, especially with the changing tides. The complexities have grown since our tupuna’s time and I imagine they will continue to do so as we progress into the future. But I love it.

The complexities allow for depth and meaning, connection and significance. The complexities of cultural identity means that being Māori can be expressed in so many different ways because being Māori is an expression of our whakapapa - of which are influenced by different environment and stimulus…. but it all starts with whakapapa. With an understanding of tātai whakapapa (ancestral lines), of processes and how they’ve resulted in you being here today with the perspectives, belief and value systems and behaviours you have, of connection between people and place..

And aaaaaanyway, what triggered this blog post theme was how my whānau whakapapa to Waipiro Bay here in Te Tairāwhiti. I know my whakapapa, pepeha and all that, I know who I’m accountable to - but they don’t know me. I come back every so often, but the people and the place probably think I’m an enthusiastic tourist haha and I’ve made it my responsibility and priority to strengthen the spiritual and psychological connection I have with not only Waipiro, but everywhere I whakapapa to. And I’m starting to make a more conscious effort of how I acknowledge my connections to all of my tupuna and whenua around the place.

Tēnā kotou,