He Whakaiiro

Image by Tamara Rochford Kerr

Image by Tamara Rochford Kerr

Cuddles, tears, laughter. You name it, it was beautiful.

Thank goodness for Facebook, I could put up a big soppy post of appreciation. I remember writing it first in Te Reo, ‘rā whānau ki a koe’ but then instantly changing it to ‘happy birthday to you’, because I wasn’t sure of the response I would get.

Anyhow, so as we move down the line of kisses and cuddles among friends and family I say with excitement,

“Happy birthday!!”

“Did you see my Facebook post, hope you have had a good day!!”

And before I could finish, they replied laughing in the room full of middle-aged upper-class woman,

“Yeah, I saw ya Facebook post,

with that bloody Maarii shit”

my heart sank.

My instant thought,

but I didn’t write it in Māori-

I wrote in English…

*Why is she saying this in front of everyone?

Did I say anything?

No.

Did I fight back?

No.

Did I correct her?

No.

I was recluse.

I sucked it in.

I took a deep breath,

clammed up,

and took it on the chin.

Like I have been taught to do.

"They wouldn't believe it if I told them I had slept with a Maari"

*laughter as if that would just be the unbearable or not even possible!

My cousin looks at me awkwardly and then my family member continues to say while she looks at me and laughs "oh not that there's anything wrong with Maaris though aye...

* Why is she saying this in front of everyone?

Did I say anything?

No.

Did I fight back?

No.

Did I correct her?

No.

I  was recluse.

I sucked it in.

I took a deep breath,

clammed up,

and took it on the chin-

like I was taught to do.

As we all left, I helped pack away the presents,

* (as did everyone else)

I packed away the champagne, and so strike two begins.

" Oh would you look at that, the Maari looked after the most expensive present". 

The awkward look down,

the shrink,

the look away.

Yep, I did it again.

I made myself small and invisible. 

I never once defended my honour. I've been taught better you see. Better not retaliate or you'll be an angry Maari and that's worse than a silent wee one. Something that has been forced to be taught over generations.

When are people going to stand up, stand out and speak aloud?

Those small comments are not okay anymore,

in fact,

they were never okay.

They chip away at a person like a traditional carver chips away at a piece of wood,

bit by bit,

until it's fashioned into something spectacular.

He whakairo * a carving


Only thing is, what they're shaping is some ugly reinforcement of a stereotype that has been imbedded over generations.

Carved out for centuries. How will we de-carve this mess that we have got ourselves in as a nation?

Pākehā mai, Māori mai.

Pākehā be kinder with your words,

Māori stand up-

S-T-O-P

Shrinking! 

Be the carvers of a new master piece,

Aotearoa tū mai!

These sly and uncomfortable comments should no longer be a part of our nation’s identity.

Carve a new story people.

Fashioned by understanding, equity and love.

*Why is she saying this in front of everyone?

Did I say anything?

Yes.

This time I did what I haven’t been taught;

I wrote…