I Am, We Are // To be Māori and Pākehā

I am the embodiment of two cultures.

Two worlds inhabit my soul.

Handed down to me by my ancestors,

tāonga lie

in both hands;

mine only to forge

into one.

 

Though you call me half-caste,

I am anything but.

I am a navigator,

a leader meant for two peoples.

Yoked to both cultures, I belong to no one.

 

Do you hear me?

I belong to no one.

 

For too long, I have walked upon a cultural tightrope,

a heightened, narrowed space, only full enough

for one identity to stand

centered.

 

Aware I would fall, if on either side I erred,

I continued on.

One culture always stood in front of the other,

never together,

never equalled.

 

No more.

 

Watch me plunge into the space

with no left or right,

no black or white.

Like paint liberated on a blank canvas,

here I unfurl my being — in an ocean of expanse

below the needle-threaded tightrope;

a space to know and define

my own identity.

 

 

I am woven from war-torn harakeke

and from the threads of bloodstained waistcoats;

from warriors and colonials.

 

I am the afflicted, and a benefactor of the inflictor.

I am the indigenous people colonised with gunshot and steel,

yet I am the coloniser —

stripping language from culture,

iwi from land,

hapū from whānau,

parents from children,

self from certainty.

 

Āue te mamae roa.

Ka tangi puku, ka tangi puku.

 

Tormented,

I cannot separate myself from the ruthless brutality

colonialists carved onto the faces of my tīpuna,

because I come from one.

 

Raging,

I cannot unknow the horrific, uncensored abuse

over 100,000 of my forefather’s generation were subjected to in state care,

because my bones still feel it.

 

Confused,

neither can I ultimately demonise this creed

when individuals within it have given nothing but unconditional love and support.

Their blood runs through my veins too.

 

Where then, does this leave me?

Can someone tell me what to do?

I’m a bit lost here.

 

How do I be Māori?

How do I be Pākehā?

How do I reconcile my cultures when they have stood

in such fierce opposition for so long?

 

Though my ancestors’ histories lie fixed within words,

their battles, their tears and their anguish

have been imparted onto every

generation after them.

 

With so much blood already spilt,

I am at war by merely existing.

 

So all I know is

this narrative must go;

“That we should be all one, or be all another —

that we must choose a side of the fence

and stick to it.”

 

No.

 

I can’t do that anymore.

I am withered, sparse in strength and worn

From carrying the merciless pressure this mindset forces upon us all.

Taxing my vitality,

it screams;

choose.

 

No!

 

I am the choice.

I am the one born from two.

No longer will I lacerate my soul to satisfy your impossible demand,

or mutilate hand from arm to determine which

ethnicity to align with.

 

Deal with it.

 

I am a trailblazer

alongside world changers.

Together we light a way for anyone harrowed by two worlds warring

within one body.

 

 

To the generations who went before me,

I turn to you now.

 

I remember your valor,

I remember your woes, I remember your ihi,

I remember your wisdom.

 

But we need to move forward.

 

I am searching for healing and scouting for peace,

and we face questions your generations never needed answers for.

 

E koro, e kui,

please hear me, before you object.

I am not moving forward to discard the pain of your youth,

or to forget the valiant courage of our forefathers.

No.

 

I am grateful for my whakapapa,

thankful that you share your lineage with me.

But there are new generations rising up now e koro, e kui

even more lost and disconnected than us,

and you rest peacefully in Mairangi.

 

So I’m trying to step up,

crafting word to feeling, enabling healing for those still reeling

and recoiling, with blood still boiling whilst continuously toiling

to find their own peace of mind.

And there are so many.

 

I pray you understand,

that you don’t reject me from Mairangi.

Our people are still hurting e koro, they’re still wayfaring souls e kui.

My heart breaks for every one —

lost, unsure, questioning.

 

There are so many of us now intertwined

into the fabrics of two korowai,

and for every I am,

We Are.