Ka hoki tonu ngā tuna ki tō rātou kāinga

I feel like this story doesn’t even start with me. If you must have a beginning it really starts with a woman who was born in the Wairarapa around the 1900's.

Katarina Kaa Matiaha (left) with her cousin

Her name was Katarina Kaa Matiaha (Hemi).

I have heard stories of her. That she was a woman of incredible mana. That she did everything for everyone. That she looked after a lot of peoples children. That a whare my whānau grew up in, was actually gifted to her from the community.

So when I talk about my journey I cannot do so without also mentioning hers or the many tīpuna that come before her (and a few after). This journey has been years in the making, but for me it really started two years ago.

It has been a full on two years. I’ve had a lot of ups but I’ve also had a lot of downs. I’ve changed and that has meant I’ve had to end some journeys I was on. You have to listen to your heart and understand what you truly want.

I’ve done te reo lessons, I’ve done Raranga (weaving), I’ve gone urupa (graveyard) hunting, I’ve found tuna (eels), I’ve gone to wānanga where I knew no one and came away with whānau and friends, I’ve attended marae hui where I knew no one and now I’m starting to learn about the art of Karanga. It’s terrifying each time but I’m getting there. I’m learning to be brave and stand in my own space, in a space that I share with many tīpuna who came before me.

Which is where I want to announce something. It will be no surprise to many of you because I haven’t exactly kept this quiet.

Subtle much exhibit A
Subtle much exhibit B
Subtle much exhibit C

I am actually moving back home to the Wairarapa. I will be seeing what I can do to help our marae, our iwi, our kaumātua, our rangatahi, our roto, our whenua and our people. I can’t do everything all at once but I can at least be present. Not just for me but for my cousins and whānau who absolutely can’t come back. Who cannot afford to or do not have the privilege to come back home.

I have been hearing the call to come back home from my tīpuna for about a year. It’s a longing sense that I’m in the wrong place. Recently it’s actually felt like I’m breaking my heart every time I drive over the Remutaka hill. It’s being woken at 4.30am for no reason at all for 2 weeks. I was getting annoyed about it when a cousin said to me…

“Your tipuna call you back when they’re ready not when you are.”

I guess the privilege I have is I can move back home without having to rage quit everything. I’m still able to return to Te Whanganui-a-tara (you can’t get rid of me that easily).

By chance I attended a wānanga in Wairarapa to reconnect back with our roto (lake). It was here that I realised there was nothing holding me back from being able to come back, other than myself. Te ao māori has given me a sense of relief and understanding for myself and the world around me. I want to help facilitate a safe environment for the rest of our whānau to return home. Both in a physical and virtual manner when they’re ready and able to. I want to remove the whakamā and raru that exists around visiting. I want to tell our stories because they deserve to be heard and we owe our tīpuna to continue them on for our mokopuna.