Becoming Māori: Nga Tūpuna Wahine

Do you know what is even more terrifying than nga tupuna wahine? Robyn.

I went to a whenua workshop this morning run by Kauae Raro, a collective of female artists who work with and promote natural colours and dyes. 

Standing in the circle and introducing ourselves and our whakapapa – the tears almost flow again. The words, my heritage – I can barely speak it without stumbling.

The voice in my head assures me that the words I’m using must sound wrong. My accent isn’t quite right. But, people still acknowledge me and embrace me despite my feeling like an alien who took a wrong turn at Alpha Centauri.

Others assure me that they too have a similar Māori journey, of Te Reo and Te Ao – and among the group, I’m quickly assimilated into the conversations of shared art practice and general chitchat. 

Until I meet Robyn. 

An older woman of about 60, she is the kind of grandmother I always imagined my real grandmother was. Warm but stern. Inside, mid-conversation, she chastises me for speaking too loudly. I feel like I’ve regressed thirty years and my already anxious self wants to hide under the bed with a book until everyone has gone. 

But she is only one of many wahine who await me on my journey and I need to embrace this fear of standing before them. I am only a girl, you see, but I wish to learn. So, I will meet many nga tupuna wahine and I must push through my anxiety, to cotinue to listen and to consider how I can give back, to contribute.

I’m here for a reason but I’m not sure what that is yet.

You thought Pare Watene was a bit terrifying. It’s the grandmothers offering Kai that are the really scary ones. 

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