Adele spent a long time on The Hand Mirror, discussing what the furore around Te Papa meant for her (tahi, rua). She has put a detailed comment on my blog, describing Te Ao Taangata Whenua – the world view indigenous to Aotearoa, and how it contrasts with a Western world view. With her permission, I am posting her comment as a post.
Adele is my guest here. Please, keep any discussion courteous. If you feel tempted to hit the keyboards and shoot from the hip, could I ask you step away for a while, and think about how to phrase your comment so that it is at least civil, even if you don’t agree with her, or you find things she says difficult. I myself don’t agree with some things Adele says, but I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about Te Ao Taangata Whenua.
Kia ora, Adele!
I am not wishing to dwell too much on the actions of Te Papa except to say that their process lacked foresight. What I would like to debate, however, is the sharing of public space between opposing worldviews – joined by a Treaty recognised in principles, if not fact. I use the term worldview to denote a discussion about ideologies more so than race.
The two worldviews I speak of are, to the left, Te Ao Taangata Whenua – the worldview indigenous to Aotearoa, and to the right, The Western Tradition, the worldview of the coloniser. Te Ao Taangata Whenua is used here rather than Te Ao Maaori because this term better acknowledges the many peoples indigenous to the whenua – nations of people identified as hapuu, or Iwi. The two worldviews are opposing because their cores values are fundamentally different.
The differences became officially manifest in two versions of a singular intent towards sharing place and space -Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the indigenous account and The Treaty of Waitangi, its English counterpart. Two versions in open conflict, such that nowadays, emphasis is focussed on spirit rather than substance and on principles rather than terms.
Developing a principled approach towards sharing place and space is also contentious especially as the worldviews in co-habitation are polar opposing in bed. One connects the spiritual, natural, and human realms via whakapapa. The other has mankind at its summit, holding dominion over the natural world. The hegemonic uplifts democracy as fair and just. The marginalised finds democracy unfair to the minority opinion. Our Gods are seventy plus in number, your God is money.
Despite being incompatible bed mates, there is a covering agreement to share place and space in partnership. The abusive relationship that currently passes for partnership is a hoohaa. There is an obligation on behalf of the state to actively ensure that taangata whenua (Maaori) have and retain full exclusive and undisturbed possession of not only the language but also the culture. That obligation extends to Government agencies. This argument has nothing to do with separating church from state.
Te Ao Taangata Whenua is not sexist. Our cosmology overflows with the power of the feminine. In Te Reo, the personal pronouns and possessive personal pronouns are gender neutral – there is no differentiation by gender. The significance of women is also symbolised in the language – whare tangata, the house of humankind, whenua – means both land and afterbirth, and hapuu meaning both pregnancy and large kinship group. We all whakapapa to Papa-tuu-aa-nuku, mother Earth – in other words, our worldview has strong attachments to the matriarch.
When the western worldview arrived in Aotearoa, it bought along dis-empowered women – mere chattels to their men-folk. It arrived into the world of the savage whose stories spoke of the strength and power of women. The missionaries, in particular, were heaven sent in destroying the heathen and the matriarch. Thus, in the retelling of the stories into written form, mana waahine was rendered impotent.
Mana waahine, today, continues to rage against the oppressive nature of the western worldview – the patriarch with a holier than thou attitude. Thus mana waahine and feminism are also bedfellows in dispute. Feminism, is fathered by the patriarch, and seeks merely to gain equality with their men-folk. Mana waahine, belongs to the matriarch, and aspires to regain the power and strength that rightfully belongs to her – emanating directly from Atua.