At the end of last month I went to print with my last issue as the editor of Mana magazine. Along with Kōwhai Media, who took over publishing Mana from Derek Fox and Mana Productions in 2014, we had to say our farewells and our thanks to our readers for the honour and the privilege of being allowed to journey even for a short time on that incredible waka. With the next issue, management and production of Mana magazine will return to Derek and his team.
It’s a lesson in letting go. Mana was never ours, it was only on loan. The best things often are. Although I’m sad to leave, I’m grateful and proud in a way that knots in my stomach.
I started this journey wanting so much to share Māori culture with non-Māori, like a missionary spreading the good word. I hoped I could show the hope and the success, the struggle and the history, te ihi, te wehi, te mana to people who had been blind to it. There seemed to be so many blind people.
I talked a lot about building bridges.
But so much of that continued to place ‘us’ in relation to ‘them’. Helping ‘them’ understand Māori culture. Changing ‘their’ minds. As Mana evolved my thoughts for those with no interest or engagement with Māori communities shifted. I discovered I just wanted to be immersed in a Māori media community. Mainstream media is terrifying. The comments are awful, the discourse is often violent. Blind people armed with weapons.
The Mana community has never made me feel this way.
I began to focus on finding stories for the Māori gaze alone. Everything else is made for a Western audience, why shouldn’t we live as if our worldview is preeminent? Why shouldn’t we exalt our values over all others? Whānaungatanga, manaakitinga, kaitiakitanga and tohungatanga, these mean more than money, consumerism and individualism—ngā atua of the Western world.
My last issue is dedicated to the disease that is created by the conflict where those values meet; the spectre that was born the first day a European looked at our strong, proud ancestors and decided they were his inferiors.
I’m not afraid of the word ‘racism’. I accuse the systems we operate within of being fundamentally, constitutionally racist. The more I learn about the healthy, industrious, deeply spiritual society we once had, the more I understand we’re not responsible for the health, education and justice statistics that plague us today. Capable of violence, sure, as are all men. We live half in dark, half in light, a part of our nature that was embraced by our tūpuna and told to children in stories. The cold moral code of Victorian England that was forced upon us was nothing if not an exercise in denying human nature.
Within living memory of our grandparents’ parents’, our people had their livlihoods taken away, were sent from their homes and punished for speaking their language. They were denied the right to practice their rituals or even parent and marry in their own way. Over the decades our ancestors’ bones have been dug up for motorways, sacred maunga quarried away, our moana and awa defiled by industrial waste. A mere four generations later, we’re supposed to have recovered from this complete dehumanisation, and the return of less than 1% of our conviscated lands is called 'special treatment'.
I don’t deny personal liability, but punitive incarceration has failed everyone. Our prisons continue to fill with men and women that aren’t given a chance to earn back a place in their community, as our tradition of utu would allow, which perpetuates violence in future generations.
The path to a Treaty partnership that actually works is through tino rangatiratanga, and not through trying to fit te ao Māori into the narrow spaces allowed by a white, patriarchal hegemony. Our spiritual and cultural worlds exist in different paradigms and must be allowed to exist outside of that. Other cultures will always be welcome on our marae ātea, physically and figuratively. Tikanga ensures this. But those that have eyes to see should learn about our mana and potential by participating on our terms.
Some people may find the June/July issue of Mana confronting. The cover is bright red like a wound, and it has the word ‘racism’ on it. I’m pretty sure you you're not meant to do that sort of thing around here.
But if my time at Mana has taught me one thing it’s that I can do just about any bloody thing I put my mind to.
I offer my thanks to all the Mana readers for their feedback and support, and to my wonderful team for your tautoko on this journey—I’m especially grateful to James Frankham, Marc Backwell, Warwick Petersen, Aaron Smale and Qiane Matata-Sipu for your stories, your expertise and your patience.
Every experience has been he taonga, he pounamu that I will carry with me to the next chapter.
Come find me online at @sharkpatu and at The Spinoff Ātea www.thespinoff.co.nz from July, we’ve created a space just for you.