Today would be my mum’s 57th birthday, and is the second birthday we’ve had to spend without her. I have the day off work and will be spending it with me own kids doing mother-child things (which consists of doing boring things like taking them to the dentist and fun things like going the library and a café). Later on I will (I promise myself!) sew up the hat that I’ve just finished knitting as I’ve done the same thing my mum would do which is knit something and then leave it to languish. Even later on I will have my Wellington-based siblings for dinner as our dad is in town. All the while, I’ll think of my mum. Which is no different to any other day really.
In deference to the greatest woman I’ve ever known, here are five mum-related pieces for you to read.
1. If I had known my mother back then
When mum died I spent a lot of time in my memories, trying to make her as real as possible before the inevitable decline in sharpness. As with any period of grief, I lamented what I had lost, that is, her own perspective on her life. Getting to know her as a young woman through my dad and my aunt’s memories is not the same. Looking at photos of her when she was a carefree, pre-child woman in Singapore (wearing glamorous 70s clothes that I later found out were made for her which is a revelation because mum almost always wore very old, practical clothing), always made me wonder what she was like. Much like this women’s project where she has photoshopped herself into old photos of her mum to make an attempt at seeing what they were like at similar ages, and to also wonder whether they would’ve been friends. Mum always looked so sassy so I would like to think we’d be sassy together.
2. Young mums, the arts ecology and ‘Being Radical’
It took me forever to get around to reading this piece by Lana Lopesi and that was because of a mixture of general busyness (being a working mum with a website to co-run who likes to spend a lot of time watching tv), and because of the general fatigue of being a mum in an online age who knows that sometimes you need to shelter yourself from yet another thinkpiece that critiques the way in which you parent. Thankfully, Lana does not do that, but instead argues that parenthood sharpened her focus and determination. There are many points I can relate to in the piece and that is definitely one of them.
3. Pusi Urale
Speaking of mum’s in the arts, this interview from Wallace Chapman with artist Pusi Urale is delightful. She is the mother of some highly-talented and high-achieving children who currently has an exhibition on at Whau Gallery in Auckland. Hearing her speak of the decisions that her and her husband made when emigrating from Samoa, that they would bring their children up in the best of Samoa and the best of New Zealand reminds me of the sacrifices my female forebears made by adapting to survive. My great-grandmother was very strict with separating tapu and noa and would not make or consume food in the same building as she did the rest of her living. This was not a world she wanted her kids brought up in so raised them in a different faith. If you look closely at your whakapapa enough you will see that there has been constant change, sacrifice and innovation that brought you to where you are now.
4. Ko au te tino kaitākaro o te rā!
Ra Pomare’s videos were a highlight of te wiki o reo Māori for me and the one from the last day in particular was a nostalgic trip. Saturday morning netball was all the better for the McDonalds vouchers that you got if you won player of the day. However, I dispute that they were free, I’m sure the ones I got always had a catch that they were free with something else, this didn’t stop us from moaning at mum that we go home through the drive-thru though. Our strike rate was pretty low though which I’ve only started to understand after having two kids with Saturday morning sport (and mum had seven kids with countless sports to get to…).
5. In through the Earth and Up to the Sky
Lastly, last year I wrote a response piece to my friend Bridget’s exhibition I thought I would of climbed more mountains by now that was at Enjoy gallery. Bridget’s piece was a video work that explored (among other things) colonial ideas of conquering land, and spoke to an expected Māori relationship to the whenua. The work got me thinking, as her work always does, about my own relationship to the whenua, something that I had always felt to be particularly rooted in Te Urewera, only to find myself yearning to be on the land in which my mother now lays. I’ve copied the piece on an old blog of mine, beware of how the links are now all broken though…
In honour of mum’s, those great women who love us like rocks, here’s a song that I love doing interpretive dance to with my kids: