He Kākano Ahau: Episode 3 – Decolonising Gender & Sexuality In Wellington City [ G ]

He Kākano Ahau: Episode 3 – Decolonising Gender & Sexuality In Wellington City [ G ]


(upbeat music) Kia ora. Nau mai. – Come into my house. This is where I come from Te Urewera. I stole this map from my mum’s
before I came to Wellington. For me, it’s just really nice
to wake up and get to know my whenua every single day. I can’t remember the first time I heard the term urban Māori, but one term I really
remember from growing up is the term city Māori. People came home who had been away in Auckland and Wellington, whatever, and almost had to prove that
they were still Māori enough to be standing strong on our marae. I think for me it was a little
bit scary to come to the city and become one of those city Māori and it was almost a dirty term, but what I’ve learned being in the city is that urban Māori are not
disconnected, not always anyway. (soft music) Among urban Māori, one of the groups that I think is really
significant is takatāpui. Pre-colonisation, Māori
attitudes to gender and sexuality were less binary. Missionaries introduced
Christian attitudes, and those were widely
adopted by tangata whenua. Our people have always
been open about sexuality but it was colonisation, the
restrictive word of the Bible, that squashed out any ideas of sexuality and gender that weren’t wahine ki te tane, in monogamous marriage forever and ever. This word takatāpui I think has
been around for a long time, but it was reclaimed in the 1980s by people who stood at this intersection of identifying on this broad
gender and sexuality spectrum, but also being Māori. I suspect many takatāpui came to the city to escape those more colonised attitudes of our traditional papakainga. Today I’m going to spend
some time going out and talking to takatāpui around what it means to be a Māori
in an urban environment. (singing) (chill music) We’re here in Owhiro Bay on the South coast of Wellington City. This is Nautilus Creative Space and this is where Ariki Brightwell does most of her art work. Ariki is an artist, she’s a cosplayer, she’s a roller derby extraordinaire. She’s also the kaihautū on the waka in Wellington City, so we’re going to talk to Ariki today about what it means for her to be young, urban Māori and takatāpui in Wellington. Kia ora e hoa. Nice to meet you.
– Want to come in, check my place out?
– Yeah, sounds awesome. Ka pai, ka pai. Oh my gosh. This garage was a bus garage. It’s been transformed into
what you see before you and now it’s a centre, cultural centre. Gigs happen here. Everything happens here, essentially. Yeah, so it’s quite an amazing place and it really truly reflects
the kind of person I am. (soft music) I was brought up in Gisborne. Leaving Gisborne I came
straight to Wellington City and I resided in central area since. Absolutely I do consider
myself urban Māori and I represent myself as such. I’ve always done art growing up. My father is a master carver,
he’s a tohunga whakairo. I went down the more kind
of illustrative route, especially with cartoons and animation that I grew up with in the
90s, so I was that child. I identify as wahine. It wasn’t until the internet came, with dial up that I started to type in some kupu like gender and things, ’cause I just felt weird. I just felt like something
wasn’t quite right about me in terms of how I felt in my own shoes. I was terrified to let anyone know. The people I met in
Wellington, the city itself, everything I encountered and saw started to open my eyes
to who I really was. Problem with the city though, is that it can absorb you, you assimilate. And a consequence of that can
be you lose a real connection with your whenua and your people. You’re too busy living in the
world trying to make a living and so you do not focus
anymore on your reo, your whakapapa or things like that. What I’ve known, what I’ve learned too from some of our kaumatua,
takatāpui identity, pre-colonisation, our people
have always experimented or dived into our sexuality. Especially our gender, that’s one of the main
parts of our culture. It’s displayed on our carving. We came from Hawaiki and
if you look at our people from Hawaiki, especially
our cultures there, we have our whakawahine on
those islands even still today, still acknowledges as who they
are as part of the culture. The sad thing about here
in Aotearoa as Māori, we kind of lost that connection, especially on that spectrum. Even though the heavy
presence on the islands, in terms of religion, is quite strong you still have the fa’afafine, you still have the whakawahine
from the Cook Islands. You have the rae-rae from Tahiti, they’re still there and acknowledged. (bike sputtering) – You’ve made this point that
Māori in an urban setting have historically been
disconnected from their culture by the fact that we’re in this urban place and it’s different from
where we’ve always been. For takatāpui, is the city not a place that has also empowered, in terms of allowing us to
express an aspect of our identity that might still be uncomfortable for our whanau at the marae. – Absolutely, absolutely. Our rangatira who fled their whanau due to prosecution of being disowned. They go to the city now for refuge because the city accommodates them. And that’s due to that one side we try to rely on shunning you away because if you decide to,
you’re wahine, you’re tane, you’re gay or anything you decide to do, that side tends to react negatively to it, which is the Māori side. And so my thing is that this
side’s really got to step up and go back to our teachings. You know, aroha, manaakitanga. All that sort of stuff
encompasses who we are and it’s the first thing we
do when we greet one another. Our people got to remember that. They should always accept
them for whoever they are because that happened to me. My whanau accepted me. Because they supported me, I had my roots and then I went to the city and
found my whanau in the city, but I still had my connection at home. So that made me a much stronger person compared to someone who goes to the city and doesn’t have that, they
have to start all over again. (soft music) – Now we’re gonna go and meet Kayla Riarn. Kayla moved to Wellington in the late 70s. I think she has a really
different experience of being an urban Māori
person in Wellington City compared to what myself or
Ariki might have had today. So hopefully we’re gonna share some good kōrero with her about that. – Kia ora – How are you?
– I’m good. – I’m an indigenous Māori
whakawahine who was born here. And there’s no if and buts about it. When I discovered I was different, there are three stages,
one is self-realisation, then there is self-acceptance. So I accepted who I was and then of course there’s transition. And I’ve been doing that for
like 40 odd years (laughs). The reason I don’t smile is because I had a shit-ass childhood. My father was kind of a prominent person and out of respect I
knew that I was different and whatever I did would
reflect on the family. So I made the choice to move away, late 1970s when I moved into Wellington. I was about 16 then. I found my own kind of
people in Wellington City. My friends that I made,
they were the same as me and we shared one thing, we’re all Maori. All of us sex workers were family. When we went out it was
like meeting your sisters. You stopped, you talked
about what you did, what you gonna do. We had our own social life so it’s like just going to
someone’s house for a coffee. Girls would be lined up
or sitting across here. Sex work was just like a minor part of it. It’s just like a great
big hui all the time. You go to any marae, you
see one of us, whakawahine. We’re in the kitchen,
we’re with the aunties. We are workers. We don’t argue about things
on a marae or what have you. We get up and we do it and
we’re respected for it. And just because I’m trans does not mean that I do not have feelings
about where I come from, who I am and who I’m a great
grandchild of, for instance. – So we’re heading now up
to Victoria University. This is an important place for me because I’ve just finished
my undergrad studies there and that was the reason why I moved to the city in the first place. And we’re going to meet Kevin Haunui. Kevin is currently doing his PhD, looking at takatāpui
understandings of wellbeing. Kevin’s also one of the trustees and founding members of Tiwhanawhana, who we’re going to go see
after this later tonight. – I was born in Rotorua in 1960. My parents were school teachers. They were both from the country as well, so lived in Rotoiti for a year or so while they were teaching there. And then at Rotokawa and from there I came down to Wellington in 1979. I was gay from a young age
in terms of self-awareness. So that was a character
trait that I kept hidden. To me, Māori are diverse, we’re not just ones that live on the pā. We’re everywhere. What’s normal is actually being everything we could possibly want to be. And all of the things that
our tikanga talk about in terms of mana, upholding mana, in terms of tautoko, manaaki, about thinking about our
spiritual side, our wairua. All those things still count. And are as important today
as they always have been. So we can’t, I believe, as
Māori be fixed and rigid. Our tikanga still has to
reflect all of those values though it might look slightly
different from how it was, one generation ago, two generations ago. It’s got to respond to
the context of the day. – So it’s about six o’clock at night and it’s just got dark outside. And we’re going to go
now and see Tiwhanawhana. So Tiwhanawhana is kind of a place for takatāpui community in
Wellington City to meet, start off with a bit of a karakia. And then I’ve heard we
do a bit of a session of whakawhanaungatanga
and what we’ve been up to in the weekend and then hopefully get into a bit of waiata, a bit of poi. And I’m a bit rusty, but I guess we’ll see if I can pull out my
skills from primary school. (singing) So what have we taken
away from this journey? We’ve talked to takatāpui young and old, we went looking for what it
means for them to be takatāpui in the city and how they find identity and that’s part of this wider story around being urban Māori. I think what I’ve learned
is that there are advantages and disadvantages to being
takatāpui in the city. Kayla mentioned earlier
that one of the advantages is that the city provides
freedom to be yourself. One of the disadvantages is
that you have to look further to find your sense of
whanaungatanga, though it is there. Overall what I’ve taken away is that for takatāpui in the city, they’ve gone on this
really significant journey. Not only are they looking at if they’re Māori enough through whakapapa, if they’re Māori enough
through their location, but also if they’re Māori enough through just being takātapui. I think there is a really
significant journey. They are peeling back these
more colonised attitudes within Aotearoa. Returning back to something
we have always been. As a wise man, once said to me, “To be Māori is to be everything
you could possibly be, “and that I think is pretty
much the gist of it.” E kore au e ngaro, he kākano
i ruia mai i Rangiātea. Ka kite ano. (singing) – [Announcer] This
programme was made possible by the RNZ/NZ On Air Innovation Fund.

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