Je suis Kiwi

Wow, its been a while since i’ve written a blogpost – woopsy!  Oh well, I’ll hopefully try to blog a bit more regularly in the near future.

Anyway, this post is just a little reflection i’ve had.

Six months ago I found myself feeling homesick and a bit mamae for home, or rather, for all of the ‘normal stuff’ that makes home what it is.  I knew I’d get past it, and I’ve got to a place where I almost feel more stronger and confident then ever before.  And it’s got to do with remembering my roots, my whanau, my turangawaewae. It grounds me. It makes me feel secure.

As long as I remain steadfast in what makes me who I am, and where I come from, I’ll be right no matter where I am in the world.

But it is frustrating that people misinterpret this strength of identity.  Its true I’m forever going on about Maori culture, traditions as well as of my tribal history, just as we do back home, because we draw strength from sharing these things, building new relationships and solidifying old ones.  In France, sharing these things provides me with a compass so that I can orientate myself in this foreign land. But rather than appreciate it, I get the sense that European people perceive this as a bad thing, as if I’m looking back, or holding on. They don’t seem to understand that its an obligation to keep my culture and history alive, and this is my way of doing it.

Which is rather ironic when you consider how proud and patriotic the French can be about, well, everything French. I wonder if its coz they’re blinded by the colour of my skin?

A few months back I had an uncomfortable experience where an older French man took me by the shoulders, exclaiming “you are not a minority. We are all the same”.  I literally had to hold back the tears. He seemed completely oblivious to the inequalities that exist in this world, and to the privileges he has as not only a white man, but a European one. In fairness to him, when he saw that I was upset he did try to apologise, resassuring me that there’s no need to feel embarassed or bad about my identity.  He didnt understand that when I say that I’m maori, I say it with pride. But in his European mindset, anyone who claims to be a minority must feel ashamed, embarassed and degraded. He simply couldn’t understand how it could ever be a positive thing.  His aggressive reaction was supposed to knock the sense into me, help me feel better, to encourage me to shed this ‘minority’ label, to abandon my sense of self and start singing the Marseillaise with pride.

I didn’t quite know how to react.  Except to state the fact: That Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, are a minority population making up less than 16% of the total NZ population. As I am Maori, from four iwi, I am a part of that minority population.  I explained that he had gravely misinterpreted my tears as a sign of shame.  I explained that I’m unbelievably proud of my heritage and that after all the destruction that Europeans have caused, economically and environmentally, they could learn a lot from Maori, as well as other indigenous people.  You should’ve seen the look on his face.  Priceless.

So anyhow, I’ve got to this weird point where being in France for 3 years has really cemented my Kiwi identity, more than ever before. I suppose it raises questions about my ability to adapt or integrate, but that doesn’t really bother me. Its more important to be true to myself and to stay rooted, than to go chasing waterfalls.

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