Pop cultural rituals of Waitangi Day: why I annually don’t care if I harsh your mellow

As a young, mobile, self-actualized and educated human who was raised to seize and create opportunity, I like to see the rest of the world – and I do.

So I actually wasn’t in my home country on Waitangi Day in 2008. Or 2010. Or 2012.
I’d most likely be sitting somewhere completely estranged from the momentous day where Aotearoa aka New Zealand, a planet’s worth of ocean away from everywhere, celebrates the time it ahem ‘began’ (see: got colonized, I spell it with a z because I like the look and I feel I don’t really owe England anything else today). Oh I mention the fact that I am abroad and privileged in this way as an invitation for you to troll my ‘Māoridom’. I aint your classic Pania of the Reef statue, this is 2014, I suggest you adjust your romantic perceptions of what being Māori looks like (and what we’re entitled to ‘complain’ about) before we enter into this further. Spoiler: we too are capable of category defying multitudes. Therefore I acknowledge I am speaking for ME.

No matter where in the world I was on this day I would still remain confused and irritated, I’d question anyone who I suspected had an apathetic or suspiciously buoyant streak on the issue. The only cure was hard Waitangi discussion and I couldn’t rest until I’d found some. Since then I’ve made it part of my life, no matter where I am, to share my ideas about this constantly-evolving but conversely stagnated holiday. Because it heightens how I feel all the time and expressing my perspective should be encouraged. Shouldn’t it?

February 6 is seared into the mind so amber for many Māori like myself – not for those beachy day-off-work reasons that are jammed down our collective throats to dull the race (non) relating senses. It’s another day in which institutional New Zealand stubbornly insists this day is about everything it’s not and that a document signed to preserve two cultures prospering wasn’t breached by one of them. Oh but it was ‘so long ago’. Interestingly this copy of the Herald right infront of me declares itself ‘Protest Free News’ today. This approach has many people duped in that it helps them relax and not confront some grim home truths. To them I say, you’re lucky you can enjoy that distance – but it’s time to undupe yourself and look at the images and information around you regarding what Waitangi originally meant, what it means now…. and how the hell that happened. Understand why it isn’t a protest-free day for everybody.

I am never too proud to bungle pseudo-academic debates regarding ‘historical dates’ or the conveniently daunting/upbeat ‘statistics’ some people kiiiindly drop on me (especially when I make them feel uncomfortable about this issue). I’m proudly not an authority on anything; I resent any assuming black & white mind-frame that is deluded enough to think the buck stops with them, full stop. But you know what, I’m Māori, from a multicultural complex family (I’m German and Samoan too) and I know and can articulate how I feel – that is my validated pass into this conversation and the only one I need.
I don’t need my opinion and experience in this country theorized, devalued or explained back to me. Colonization has continuously affected the agency and access Māori have had to things that are their right as one of the founding cultures of this country. Such a simple fact but the one that many people cannot bring themselves to own and admit. I don’t want anything from you, or my great-great grandfathers land back (yet HA). Just get with the program.

Incidentally my prerogative to speak my mind embodies the Māori concept of self-sovereignty. People afraid of this ideology and ‘looking it up’ (something many Maori have to do when accessing history/information about THEMSELVES) prove my point. Considering the UN believes Māori is the official language of New Zealand we sure have a lot of image authentification to do, might help if the wack Prime Minister speaks Māori at the rugby world cup final instead of leaving it to a French President visiting. Oh but the opening ceremony (and winning team!) was heavily lacquered in the vitality of our people when it’s time to look cool right. I’m just super saiyan. The mask we wear to the world is crooked.

I like to always be most aware of a particular realm I occupy and enjoy, and that is media I guess. On Waitangi day white media mockingly avoids meaningful eye contact with the robust protests/opinions happening not just up at Waitangi, but worldwide, from frustrated indigenous peoples everywhere. Māori are reduced to a fleeting haka cut-away every damn time. Our frustration is a footnote of ‘isn’t it a shame they always spoil it, that’s not the spirit of Waitangi Day’. No because the Pakeha establishment gets to define that. I say there are greater shames regarding the Treaty of Waitangi than someone ‘harshing your mellow’.

Australia Day, Thanksgiving Day, this world has a long history of imperial PR telling us to compartmentalize our anxiety and we all get along ‘just this once’ so the ‘real’ news or ‘true’ sense of festivity can get through. (Pro-tip: don’t say genocide people get antsy). Look at the way Māori are represented and marginalized in this country, not just throughout history but like….right NOW, barely anything ‘real’ gets through for us unless we take full control of our image and make our own mirrors (eg. Māori TV, constantly under funding threats no less). And whom is the ‘we’ getting along? People who don’t have to think of the irreversible impacts that such a day had on their culture must be the ‘we’. The conservative semantic strikes taken to muzzle reactive culture (see: culture) and various inequalities in this country are so transparent, insecure and controlling it’s comical.

We collectively pounce on the ambiguous element of any issue and treat it as a gateway drug to coy apathy instead of confronting how we feel, what we’re doing wrong, how f**ked up things are every other day of the year. Confronting discourse with our leaders and even our friends are not dangerous or counter-productive, this is called being alive in a complex society and being real. Efforts to homogenize any political experience or voice are only intensifying the problem, because again, it’s seldom all cultures getting that privilege.

So I say every year, tough luck, you have to think about it.
You have to discuss it, all aspects of Waitangi Day, respect that not everyone thinks it’s good and understand and own why. Because it’s the epidemic of casual racism and assumption that makes this day the inconvenient guilt-trip it’s become for many Pakeha, for many Māori it’s the one day they feel politically acknowledged.
I don’t watch/listen to any institutional news today; half of these reductive, obviously uninvolved (and at worst: shaky and ‘scared’) journalists need to keep their trite 6pm sum-ups away from me. So do people who want my articulate light-skinned face to non-threateningly talk them through their guilt and New Zealand history, inform yourself. You’ve got Google too.

My kaupapa has morphed over the years and it always will. I have informed and educated myself, challenged others, humiliated myself, reconditioned and relearnt a lot, not just a Māori person but a human living in this country who wants terms of engagement to be flexible. I’ve also fallen out with people who resent me rejecting their convenient Disney lense on things here. It’s cyclic, painful and humbles us all but I don’t demonize or fear a natural evolution. What sort of country would? Hmmm.

Here’s a free download of a song I did with the boys Ali, Flowsion, Exile in 07 called Ninjas Attack. We wrote it when lots of Māori people were arrested for doing nothing on suspicions of being terrorists, turns out they were innocent and this track has since become one of my favourites. And as ‘redundant’ as you think me sharing my ideas on a blog post are, as ‘ironic’ as you think it is that a Māori person uses her internet connection and Mac laptop to voice her frustration with living in a colony…. well this is me taking control of my own media….and I guess this time there’s nothing YOU can do about it. See ya next year! :)

And for the record:

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