What Is Māori?

By Jessica Thompson Carr

As I grow up still I ask my mother
What percentage I am
As though it will affirm my existence
Make my skin thicker
My hair longer
My back stronger
Only recently did she tell me
It no longer matters.
What is Māori? Our babies ask
Constant wondering, wandering
Nomad?
Half in, half out,
A loss, an abused
Culture
I knew it, loved it, Identified with it
Until someone made it
A Circumstance.
And gave me my self
In one hour classes, once a week
And free lunches, once a month
To tell us about scholarships
But nothing about music
Art, heroes, or language
And eventually I forgot my mihi.
We pinched it into an itty
Bitty thing with no priority
We pinched our eyes shut
What is Māori?
Is it my grandfather
Forbidden to speak his language in school?
Or my Mother
A passionate piece of Pounamu
who collects hundreds of photographs desperately
Trying to piece us all together?
Would you like to carve me open
And measure my blood?
Is it a language I do not know?
This place is a mess
What have we done
What is Māori?
Is it me?

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