This is an edited version of Tina Makereti’s University of Auckland Public Lecture: Poutokomanawa — The Heartpost, which was given as part of the Auckland Writers Festival last week. It is posted here at E-Tangata: A Maori and Pasifika Sunday Magazine.
I want to begin by acknowledging Tāmaki Makaurau, who I have a history with. I lived here for five years while I was a teenager. When I lived here, I think I was like many Aucklanders. I didn’t know who I was or where I came from. I knew nothing of my whakapapa. I knew nothing of half my family. Nothing at all.
And though I didn’t know what I didn’t know, I felt haunted by that loss. I was as awkward and lost and damaged as a person can be in that situation. But I could write, even though I soon forgot it for a while, and I did write, and creativity kept me alive.
I tell you this now because I want you to know I do not come from privilege, even of the cultural kind. I come from not knowing, and that is how I know how important this kaupapa is. Stories can save your life.
If I could do anything in the world it would be to sit in the corner and read and write books. I would happily lose myself in stories for the rest of my life. I never planned to find myself a podium and talk on it. But here I am because when I started writing seriously I looked around me and I was startled by what I saw, and I knew we were missing something vital, and I wondered how it was we had gotten ourselves into this position.
And I’m not very good at ignoring problems. But I don’t want to start there, with the problems.