He Mihi

When I was twenty-one, an astrologer in Glastonbury said to me: You've been cut away from your home and purpose by the great cosmic scissors!

I had no idea what he meant. (I was just bumbling along studying and exploring, like so many young adults, wasn't I?) It took me twenty-five years – fifteen in academia and another ten in parenting and decolonising – to see. But when I finally did, it was crystalline.

I was born to parents of Māori, Irish, Scottish and English descent. I was born into a complex cultural inheritance, within a complex family situation, within Aotearoa's complex 'national' situation. This would require some initiation. I would need education. I would need to be guided in how to live with mixture and power imbalances – in how to be strong, proud, fluid, agile, loving and committed within them. I would need to bed down in this, learn to raise my own kids in this.

Instead, we were white, we traveled. Then when old enough, I traveled by myself. I traveled white, though I kept befriending people of colour. I filled my brain with French philosophers and English party drugs and global contemporary art. It took me years to wake up from all that – and more years to start catching up on what I'd missed, about who I was and where I was from.

That stuff you fill your head with in your twenties? You can't just put it down like a dusty old suitcase. You can't destroy it with your regret. You can't whakanoa or discharge it by sitting your arse on those piles and piles of wrong books, as one good friend suggested – though it's worth trying just for the fun of it. That stuff becomes you. It follows you, conditions all you go on to do.

Now, I finally get it. Now I know. My job is just to mihi and give thanks to what I received. Mihi to the lineage of philosophers that claimed me, usurping my own elders and their many-cultured stories. Mihi to those cosmic scissors that insisted this would be my journey. Mihi to the forces that gave me my own very singular tasks to do here. Kei te mihi...

To all the ruptures and breaks and layers that made me.

To my mum for faith.

To my dad for criticality.

To my stepdad for my life's first firm boundaries.

To my stepmums for showing there are many ways to be a woman in this world.

To my son for bearing with me, for teaching me hard patience and acceptance and deep love, and for his own dogged wildness dancing with mine.

To the friends who stuck with me.

To the communities who kept asking me back.

To my many sisters and cousins who stay solid (even when I wish they'd budge a little!).

To Pikitū for fully welcoming me, though I came so late.

To my ancestors, tūpuna, for always being there, holding me up, making me anew, anew, anew.

To my mokopuna and uri, all my descendents, for staring me down, keeping me true to futurism and the relief of invention.

To amazing writers on the sea of relation, at the borders and contact zones and in-between spaces, struggling on and on to give voice to their own singular experiences.

To those scary judges on my shoulders for making me do the study and revision (or at least making me promise that I'll do the revision, one day!).

To all the philosophers (sorry for the many many dissings I’ve given you). To Glissant for creolisation and relation and abyss. To Stengers for techniques that allow spirit work and belief in ‘magic’. To Massumi for thinking-feelings and semblances and more. To Carl Mika for fellow curiosity in the transverse lines between Māori philosophies and Euro ones. To Manulani Meyer for many-truth epistemologies. To Māori Marsden.

To all my teachers.

To art.

To the mysteries that have allowed me in.

To my privilege and my grief for being prepared to break each other down.

To the many whenua I have lived upon. To the so-aptly named Awarua Street, home of my boy’s childhood, which leaned in with the leaves of tī kōuka and kawakawa, and teased me hard with convovulus and tradescantia and more. To the whenua where I was raised and the whenua where all my relations live and the whenua where my son's whenua is buried and all the whenua, all the earth in all its parts and relations. Papatūānuku, thrive!

To myself, for surviving it all and slowly, belatedly hearing and receiving the purpose I have been given.

Kei te mihi, kei te mihi, kei te mihi.