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"There are many ways to journey" says Rachel Dibble.

In September 2018, a much talked about, planned and thought through journey became #inreallife. As a result of how the trip was funded, I knew that I would write about the journey. So it was, from inception, ka mua, ka muri - looking behind to see forward, to move ahead, to remember what has been, to see what might become. As the planned journey with my tamariki became a reality, the shifting, the weaving of the past, present and future became almost tangible. The memories, more than the 20 gigabytes of photos attached, will be remembered as a once in a lifetime journey. 

Becoming an educator in a tertiary institution has been a journey that is so entwined with my #roadtripwiththekids, and specifically, to this part of the world, where I became several layers within myself. I am tangata whenua. Taranaki is the mountain where my ancestors’ bones are in the ground, of the ground. The story of Parihaka, specifically, The Art of Passive Resistance toured around the country. In 2003, I found myself so heart-wrenched from grief that while standing in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, tears trickled freely down my face. I had nowhere to go, and no small children to navigate. As my heart and eyes moved around the exhibition, I found myself face-to-face with the ‘our-story’. The mamae brought me into the Polytechnic, to connect and reconnect. 

Deciding to learn te reo Māori, I met with Whaea Theresa Boyd Te Kawa, the Programme Leader of the Kaupapa Tangata Whenua Diploma in Te Ao Māori. On that initial enquiry (ending in enrollment) Whaea Theresa said something to me that day that has stayed with me. As I struggled for words to explain who I was, why I was there, and how I have questioned my authenticity as others have questioned, or been oblivious to my whakapapa, she held my hand and said “You say this to them… Ko wai koe he pātai taku whakapapa? … Ko wai koe he pätai taku whakapapa?” The lines from within became stronger over the years as those words have given me roots, like harakeke, to bury deep into the earth and stand strong against the elements of colonisation, one might say. 

The slam poem, ‘Lines from Within’, was born of this journey of entering into a tertiary institution. Working for Emeritus Professor Khyla Russell gave me another perspective of authenticity and the strength of mana whenua. Over the four years of working in the Kaitohutohu Office and birthing my two babies (not in the job description!), I found myself being of this place as tangata whenua, and yet not, but still connected. Taranaki maunga bringing me closer. The first class I taught as an educator was focused on trying to talk about Te Tiriti o Waitangi from a depersonalised perspective. This was frustrating to say the least, and difficult for me to do. 

The story I was most easily able to relate to the learners was that of my own whakapapa and that of the connection with Ōtepoti and Taranaki. The pātai I asked of myself was “kei hea tāku whakapapa” – where is my whakapapa? As my tamariki grew, with the names of their tūpuna waiting to be stories, their whenua was still in the freezer on a separate shelf. Tapu and noa in a contemporary setting. These whenua survived two burglaries of food and I knew that I had to journey with the whenua and take my tamariki to their mountain, so their pepeha would be realised for them, as not just words on a page, but the outline of a mountain, river and whare, from within.  

I have recently discovered the power in the spoken word, or slam poem, so decided to challenge myself and to compose a mash up of 20/20, twenty slides in twenty seconds, put to a spoken word poem. I stand in front of learners and I find myself talking about “how Māori…” and “how we [as Māori]…” I try not to trip over these words, these descriptions of myself as an inclusive other, and I watch the other tangata whenua in the room travel on their own journey as they also learn about ‘Self’, ‘Other’ and ‘Othering’. To write about this journey as research, to speak in my own voice, can be daunting. The subsequent vulnerability often leads me back to the room where whaea Kura gave me the words that gave strength to the words of my grandmother and mothers and aunts. 

I share this with the learners, and significantly, when my tamariki and I were standing in the urupā, with their namesakes’ headstones to the left and the right, the words “It’s where your bones lie that gives you your whakapapa” came to me. Koro Taranaki, visible the whole time, from Hāwera, to Parihaka, to New Plymouth and back. We are the maunga. That is our whakapapa. This poem happened as a result of a journey into an Art Gallery, and many awesome people have given me tautoko/ support for the journey. I would like to mihi to them all, especially my whānau, and also to my work colleagues. There is a special place for Aunty Maata and Uncle Cousin Te Ahu Rei, for opening their whare to my tamariki and I.

MĀORI & INDIGENEITY

January 2021