Category: the art of discipleship


This afternoon I got to hear some of a fantastic panel session moderated by Sandra Kailahi, on the panel was keynote speaker Ngāhuia Te Awekōtuku, with Sheridan Waitai, Leali’ifano Dr Albert L. Refiti, Nigel Borell and Zech Soakai.

I came in late but these are some fav snippets for listening and learning, I’m sorry they’re not attributed!:

  • “Decolonising” is a new word but this is something we’ve been negotiating since first contact.
  • Not all knowledge is taught in the same school (or held in the same museum)
  • Know me/us for our joy before knowing us for our trauma.
  • Our youth are defined as “troubled” instead of resilient.
  • Message from youth: “We could do so much more if people believed in us”
  • Success is so often measured by tertiary education but we have many paths that are not seen as ‘less than’
  • Whakapapa got us here, but whakapapa will get us further.
  • It’s a practice: play the game, beat the game, to change the game.
  • We need to leverage space to talk about our truth.
  • Connections with others around the world has been invaluable. Other people of colour. Our ideas, ways of thinking and doing are heard and valued.
  • Stuff has travelled so far, had an amazing story. They are rooms full of dead things. We need to sing the vā and ask: how do we receive this here? Sing ancestors to the present. Wake them up. We need to articulate that and make plans.
  • Exhibits can be enriching. We can feel embraced/represented. But not by telling it in the Master’s voice. We need to seize the doing.
  • Need to establish relationships/partnerships that aren’t pass/fail but allow for narrative, vision, space… where we are all experimenting together and able to try, learn, and try again.
  • They are a visual representation of self. Take your things home.
  • When/if Pacific lands are lost to climate change, what role might museums play in preserving taonga of a place that doesn’t exist anymore? How can they be guardians to preserve and protect so that people can visit and remember.
  • Can the word ‘decolonised’ even be applied to spaces like museums? The collection might be decolonised but the structure remains >>need to make a commitment to opening other avenues.
  • If you cut up a text that shows violence but if you read a text, read with the grain. What’s unemphasised? I try to read the two texts together, see how they can address or talk to each other.
  • It’s different for Māori and Pacific people they can always address directly – land taken or land given back.
  • 1500 guides were trained for Te Māori.  The guides felt safe, there were aunties and koro around but they were deterrents too. To touch tapu or to be around it, some saw it as a house of dead things. A trophy house. From the other side, to see weaving or wood carving… there can be joy, learning, and ownership.
  • If you work within an institution you must celebrate the small wins e.g. paradigm shifts. If the mauri of an object means it has to be worn. That’s it’s remit. If you can’t see it on display, someone might be wearing it. Be brave. Know what you have to achieve.
  • 2 Māori contemporary curator appointments in the 1990s… there’s still only 2 roles. Allies need to advocate.
  • The kaupapa is of collecting the odd, exotic, the other, curiosities. We need a reiteration of beautiful, exquisite ‘other’, to decolonise that, to see Te Māori and Pasifika as here.
  • Decolonising? That’s work for the pālangi and pākehā. I’m already overworked. It’s enough to work to protect and pass on our knowledge. Our absent partner. That’s the ‘other’.
  • Decolonise oneself, claim all your ancestors including the armed constabulary from 1860s… Norwegians, Germans… we are all of them.
  • Act like you own it. It’s your whakapapa. We don’t need to decolonise… we didn’t ‘colonise’ it. Be ready for you to be colonised by us!

kōrero/speak #advent2020

My friend Maria and I spend the afternoon in the garden. The broadbeans are spent, it’s the end of their season and we sort the remaining pods for food and seeds to dry. We hold the end and the beginning of life in our hands.

kororia/glory #advent2020

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. We pray for the changing things, and the things that stay the same. We pray for the uncertain things, and the ones we’re sure of, the known and the unknown. We pray for the paradox. So we are not alone when we’re alone.

karakia/prayer #advent2020

whanaungatanga/fellowship #advent2020

There are there 4 themes of Advent: peace, hope, love, joy… it occurred to me today how grateful I am that those things aren’t around all the time. They’re not single-use gifts or something we put on a shelf and admire. They are practices, they are feelings. The word ‘advent’ means coming. This is a time of year where maybe we’re cleaning our house and making food to say: “Come in, come in” to hope… to love.

Maybe these are gifts you have to give. Maybe these are gifts you desperately want to receive. We cannot promise that you’ll have them all the time, but we can promise that they keep coming.

hanga anō/rebuild #advent2020

Whenua, in te reo, means land and is the same word for the placenta. That which nourishes. That which we come from, that to which we return.

It is a tradition to plant the placenta and umbilical cord beneath a tree, in a special place, in the place you come from. You are intimately connected to the land. The tree grows as you grow. The landscape is changed because of your presence in the world, because you put something into the land that nourishes it and then the land produces the food that nourishes you in turn.

You will always be connected to this place.

We are children of Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother. How often, when faced with a decision and uncertain what to do, do we go home, connect with where we come from, listen to and learn from the land to get perspective and clarity?

What remains when land and sky are gone? What endures? Listen to the story you were born into.

Whenua/earth #advent2020

The Māori creation story begins with nothingness. ( Te Kore).

It is a long dark night. (Te Pō)

From here two of our Māori gods Ranginui, the Sky Father, and Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother, emerge.

Rangi and Papa lay together in a tight embrace. They held each other so tightly that no light could get through and the world was in darkness, and their children are born between them. 

For a long time, the children exist in a dark cramped uncomfortable space. They talk of the “potential”, the speck of light seen beyond.  What could be beyond?

The brothers made a decision and tried to separate their mātua. Finally, it was Tāne who lay on his back with his legs facing up. With total focus and strength, he pushed and pushed. Ranginui and Papatūānuku didn’t want to be separated from each other or their tamariki. In this crucial time of separation, te wehenga, the tamariki spoke with respect to their parents while helping.  Rangi and Papa wept for each other rather than being angry with their tamariki. The separation of the parents by the children resulted in the movement from darkness to the world of light (Te Ao- Mārama) and humans flourished on the Earth. However, Rangi still mourns the loss of Papa and drops tears which become dew and Papa’s sighs go up to the sky, which become mist.

In the end, the brothers became Māori Gods, guardians, or atua of particular domains.

In the cycles of our own, day in and year out, little births and deaths – what does the knowledge of our bigger creation narrative offer?

There is life beyond the darkness that seems to be all we can see. We can make a decision that things will be different, and choose to act before the new Way is visible.

We are strong, in our minds and our bodies. We are agents in bringing about our own becoming and shaping our lives into what we want them to be.

The old ways cease to be, but we learn new ways of relating to one other and ourselves.

Whakapakari/strengthen #advent2020

I listen to people talk about a “new normal”. I hear it as something ‘out there’ and I wonder, “Who’s making it? Who’s working on building the new normal?”

Sometimes I catch up with friends (over zoom or for a socially distanced walk) and they’ve discovered something wonderful in this season and they ask: “What can I do to keep this? How can I keep living my life with this in it once things go back to normal?”.  There is that word again. Normal. This idea that normal is something that happens outside of us and is controlled by forces outside of us. But what we’re really talking about is life, or culture, and culture is made up of ‘the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviours shared by a group of people’.  How and why is lockdown having an impact on these?

In trying to come up with a parallel for this lockdown experience, I started thinking about the idea of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a conscious stepping aside from life as normal in order to explore and experience a totally new environment such as: a journey to the Red Centre, walking the El Camino or doing an internship, or taking a sabbatical often for a time of discernment or at a time of transition such as a relationship or job ending.  Anyone who has had experiences of this kind will know that it is not the destination that teaches us something, but rather what we learn along the way.

We have not been able to choose to take this pilgrimage, but regardless there are similarities: We have needed to let go of the ‘way things have always been’ and consider what else they might be. The routines aren’t there, the busyness, the commuting, the activities and events that take up our time… the bustle of life has slowed because we cannot travel more than 5kms and need to be home before a curfew. There is an invitation here to consider, what is essential to us? What can we survive well without or even is a relief to stop? Unbidden, we are being asked to reconsider, “What are my values, beliefs, assumptions…”?

Here’s what can happen on a pilgrimage: when you sit with a empty horizon before you and allow the land to speak to you, you will discover how full it is; or when you walk (and walk and walk) and hold silence within yourself knowing yourself to be walking where many others have walked, and will walk again, you can identify both as singular and part of the collective of all of humanity; or when you visit a new country and experience being the person who doesn’t know the language, the food, courtesies, jokes or the slang and might know for the first time that you can be the ‘other’ too… it’s not the place we go that changes, or the places we come back to – but us.  I don’t know that change is the right word for this because, really, it’s remembering, and re-membering. A coming back to the wholeness of who we feel called to be, and how we can be – and become – that which we lost sight of somehow.

Here’s what can happen on a pilgrimage: when you walk, you meet and get to know your own neighbours, you might discover a little library, a lovely garden, a cute letterbox – familiar and new as if you were trying to memorise the face of a loved one before you lose them, suddenly there are details you never saw before and they are precious; or when you are removed from friends, family and the usual social circles, you paint a spoon for Spoonville, put a teddy bear in the window, or leave groceries at the free pantry. Learning without words, without touch, without ever meeting, I can connect with someone and that can be profoundly meaningful; or when you are stuck with someone, or stuck apart, stuck in a job you need or stuck on a job you love and can’t go to right now, you recognise the fragility of life and how important it is to do what you love with the people you love best and who love you well – what will it cost you to have that? What is it worth to have that?

This seems the spot where you might easily drop T.S. Eliot’s ‘the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’. T.S. Eliot wrote these Four Quartets during World War II and the air-raids on Great Britain. It is good to remember that these times ARE precedented. Pandemics have ravaged with worldwide impact before, as disease arrived on cruise ships so too it came with the First Fleet. People have lived through experiences wondering if the world would ever be the same again, wondering whether a safe world would exist for their children to grow up in. It is this line from Eliot that drew me today:

last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

The new normal belongs to you.
It is yours to discover. It is yours to remember.

I invite you to gently and creatively engage with any/all of these questions through journaling, a vision board, mind map, or other mindfulness practice you enjoy, as you make your way onwards.

Is there anything you have discovered a lockdown love for? Make a list… what did this teach you about yourself you didn’t know before? What needs did these meet?

Make a list of things you have felt you’ve missed or lost in lockdown. What do you value about them?

Are there things that you haven’t missed? What has putting these down, freed up capacity for?

Land, family, law, ceremony and language are five key interconnected elements of Indigenous culture – how have the interventions and new laws of the lockdown impacted how these elements in your life have looked over the past few months? Was there somewhere outside your 5kms you longed for? How were rituals different, such as birthdays, weddings or funerals? Have you been using Zoom, Google Hangouts, Discord… or silenced by in accessibility of software or skills?

Has this time brought up things from the past that have been painful or difficult? Honour that. Celebrate what you know about survival. Consider doing a compare and contrast of then and now as a way of seeing how far you’ve come and how much resiliency you have learned. If someone was absent – who is present? If someone harmed – who is healing?

Has this time brought attention to or caused areas of your life to become painful or difficult? Honour that. What is this telling you about what’s important to you? One way to enter into this conversation might be to map What Is/What Could Be. Know you are worthy of dignity and respect and a life that fulfils you and brings you joy. Are there any steps, however small, that might create movement between what is and what could be? Take them.

Did you take up new, or see changes in, the roles and relationships you have through COVID? As teacher, partner, parent, friend…  acknowledge these shifts. Have you learned something about your expectations of yourself and others?

Continuing to consider this years theme for NAIDOC week of “Always Was, Always Will Be” with the Collins Australian Clear School Atlas New and Revised Edition.

This image shows Economic-Population. There’s a sense looking at a map like this that there’s still Terra Nullius – land where no people are and no work is happening. You can see that the measure used for ‘economy’ – doesn’t recognise the agriculture or trade practices of Aboriginal people.

Recognising Aboriginal people must surely need to begin by recognising the profound, enduring relationship and connections they bear with the land.

“Aboriginals engaged in seed propagation, irrigation, harvest,
storage, and the trade of seed across the region.”

― Bruce Pascoe, Dark Emu

When you say/hear an Acknowledgement of country, does considering the above make you reconsider what it means? “We acknowledge that we gather on the lands of which Aboriginal people have been custodians since time immemorial, and pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging”

The dashed line above denotes the ‘limits of agriculture’ (at least for the 60s-70s when this atlas was published). What can we learn about what is considered ‘agriculture’ from this image? Who gets to determine that?

Does the image raise any considerations for balance?

Always Was

This years theme for NAIDOC week is “Always Was, Always Will Be”. I’m interested in finding ways to creatively and contemplatively explore what this means as a white-presenting Settler in this place.

I love old books and paper, I’m going to use some of these as a lens: First up is the Collins Australian Clear School Atlas New and Revised Edition.

p.9 “AUSTRALIA – Territorial Changes”

These maps show the territorial changes (6) between 1786 and 1861. Here they are shown with an overlay of the AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia. It’s hard not to liken that to a shadow, a haunting overlay, crossing and connecting countries and communities across territorial lines drawn and re-drawn.

What arises when you look at these? Has your home country/town been in different states?

It’s important to understand that when you are speaking to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait person and recognise that their cultural tale is millenia-long that the image of Australia they might imagine is the reverse: Aboriginal land with state and territory lines superimposed on top. When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people say: “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land” this is what they mean… these many countries and territories existed prior to 1786 and they are still here.

Yesterday, Gomeroi woman, Rachel McPhail, living on Wiradjuri country did a call out to challenge Australia Post to encourage Aussies to include the traditional Nation name in the extra address line when sending letters and packages. To support this idea, you can check traditional Nations at AIATSIS.gov.au.