pitopito korero

Hangman – Discovering an identity May 15, 2019

Aged seven I found out I was Māori through the Hangman game at primary school, the clue was “it’s a Māori girl’s name and it begins with B”. It was my name.

The facts; dad cooked fried bread every lunchtime, we had hangi for Xmas dinner, we ate paua and muttonbird, he had an afro. But, the fact I was Māori – this was still news to me.

I sprinted home after school and asked “Am I a Māori mum”?

My blonde and petite mother laughed, she confirmed I was. It was the 70s, wasn’t the era where many Māori shouted their iwi-ness from the rooftops. This new information unsettled me – I only knew one other Māori family, the Moas, our family friends. They had a mum a Pākehā mum and a Māori dad too. Talk about feeling like the odd-ones out in very-white Dunedin.

From my ‘aha’ day, my dad filled my head with whakapapa, he told me romanticised stories of his upbringing, being one of 22 kids raised in a two-bedroom home in Maketu. He showed me history books filled with my tūpuna’s ventures and by the time I was 14 I identified as Māori. I joined kapa haka and became a guide at Te Māori Exhibition.

When I left home, I lived with my aunty in Auckland and eventually moved back to Maketu, my whenua. Today as the parent of two boys, I am in that same position as my father – connecting my children to their past with stories of our culture and tupuna, so they can step into a bright future secure in both their Pākehā and Māori consciousnesses.

Kotahi aroha.
Bridgette Tapsell