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Ko Mitimiti ahau, I Am (of) the Place, Mitimiti

  • Jack Gray

Extract

Kia ora, tenei te mihi kia koutou. Warm greetings to you all. My culture shares ‘tikanga’, a way of doing, a conceptual framework based on notions of ancestral continuum and the passing down of codes, which embed land, sea, and sky within our consciousness. As the descendants of oceanic navigators, we as contemporary Maori still follow ancient practices of mapping to situate and connect place to person. In our traditional greeting, I would recite my ‘pepeha’—an oratory statement that places my ‘mana’ (power, authority) beneath the status of a tribal mountain, of our river, of our canoe (from our first navigators) of our meeting house (acknowledging the name of our first ancestor). Finally after all of these many genealogical citations, only then would we say our own name. Our name is always last, because we humbly do not put ourselves first. The land and all that has come before us is first and so it shall be for the next generation and the one after that. When Maori greet each other we constantly listen to find connective histories. Most likely we are distantly related and in doing so, it balances the space between where we may find mutual cooperation. In times long gone, these recitations would sometimes mean the difference between life and death, love and war. Reciprocity went both ways, and intertribal trauma inflicted upon one generation could be rebalanced in the next, perhaps killing, perhaps intermarriage. Contemporary Maori now deal with balances of other torn and shredded histories. But we are blessed with the knowledge that what was broken before, can and should be restored for the next. Tihei Mauriora. Let there be life.

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