I hope this reaches most of you as you’re relaxing somewhere or taking it easy on your last day of work for the year. We all know how tumultuous this year has been and how much we need to have a break from it but while I have your attention, I thought we’d recap on a few things and try take some posivibes out of each situation.
1. My President Was Black
This is a huge read. And I mean that in terms of length, but also the breadth of experience that he covers in his reflections on Barack Obama’s presidency. I found it quite a hard read due in most part to the tenor of the unknown that ripples throughout as we approach Obama’s imminent departure from the White House. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ descriptions of his times attending the White House at various events are particularly piquant in the looming uncertainty of the future. They are also a reminder that all that we hold dear can disappear at any time, and that we must never be complacent.
How to find a posivibes spin on that? How about the highly alcoholic-sounding White House egg nog recipe? Yum.
2. Destroying cultural heritage sites
With the worldwide horrors of the refugee crisis and all that is happening in Aleppo right now, it is difficult to maintain any sort of hope in fellow humans. We live in a world where children can drown on beaches whilst trying to escape the horrors of their homeland, their images going viral and governments promising actions only to have nothing really change. Sometimes it feels ridiculous and selfish to talk about art at times like this but a recent conviction in the International Criminal Court saw Ahmad Al-Faqi Al-Mahdi sentenced for the destruction of religious and cultural patrimony. I’ve seen headlines claiming that this is not a war crime and shouldn’t be tried as such, that this cultural destruction is not the same as taking a human life. What this argument ignores is that cultural destruction can erase the entire existence of a people which, to me, is an unthinkable cruelty. Being of a colonised culture, experiencing a partial erasure is ruinous enough so, ana tō kai Al-Mahdi.
You get to learn a kīwaha! “Ana tō kai” is akin to the pākehā saying of “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it” except it’s more like saying to a Christmas grinch “you’ve made that flat pavlova so now you’ve gotta eat it”.
The most powerful voices I’ve heard this year have been young, female and brown. They have been fortifying and inspiring. They have been the most progressive and productive.
While I have benefitted hugely from being able to listen to these voices, I have daily reminders that they need to be louder, stronger and more numerous. It is hard to work within frameworks where your viewpoint isn’t privileged, and to feel like you’re always having to fight to be heard but it is these voices that are what keep me going. So to all the awesome wāhine whose words have given me life, I thank you.
Speaking of new voices, Contemporary Hum popped up in my Facebook feed and I’m going to enjoy making my way through it over my break. Also, Pantograph Punch has appointed Lana Lopesi as their visual arts editor so it’s my hope that this leads to more and more brown voices.
4. Networking gets better
Networking is surely the bane of most people’s existence. Surely? One of the pieces that was written by our Formation columnist Jess Aitken on this very topic struck a chord with a lot of people.
The title itself is the Positive spin! I’ve learned that networking only gets better the more you do it until it gets to the point where you’re just hanging out with a bunch of mates (I think, tbh I’m still not 100% comfortable with it). The numerous conferences that I have attended in the last year and a bit have gotten progressively more bearable because of all the really lovely people I’ve met. I think one of the reasons why ‘networking’ has such a terrible rep is because it seems so disingenuous. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve had is to make friendships which I like because people aren’t stepping stones, they’re people.
5. Policy base
My new manager gave a really great kōrero at his first directorate meeting where he explained his reasoning for the weekly commute from Uawa: his home is his policy base. This has been something I’ve thought a lot about lately in relation to professional development and my mahi in a Māori role as professional development doesn’t necessarily come from a tertiary institution but your whānau and upbringing. This is what I take his ‘policy base’ point to mean, that it is his whānau and tūrangawaewae that gives him the base for his mahi and going home helps to replenish what the city depletes. Tell me then whānau how do I apply for PD to be sent home to learn te reo me ōna tikanga o ōku tipuna? *thinking emoji* Applying to do a university course is easier to than saying “can I go home and swim in my river?”
It’s Christmastime fam and I am home with my whānau! On our way north we stopped off to see mum and Koro in the urupā in Ohingaiti, I’ve already had a quick kōrero with my dad about some of our taniwha in Rūātoki, today we’re going to head to Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake in Rotorua) [actually nope, it's raining here lol], we’ll likely head to the Christmas service at Ohinemutu, we’ll head over to Rūātoki to see the whānau there and have a swim in Ōhinemataroa. I’ve only been on holiday for a day and already I’ve been reminded of all that the city does not have a monopoly on.
On that note, I wish you a very Māori Christmas!