A personal essay by Kaipara novelist Kelly Ana Morey. ‘I can’t be the ‘Māori’ writer people want me to be,’ she writes, ‘all I can be is myself.’
Two weeks ago I buried my father. He had a good innings and largely got to die in the privacy and comfort of his own home due to sterling care-giver work by my brother. For which I will be forever grateful to him. It’s not an easy job. After the service we took Dad up to Kaitaia cemetery which has sweeping views across Pukepoto and out to Ahipara. It was a still hazy day and out near the coast a tyre fire raged. Thick black smoke roiling across a galvanised sky as the home fires burnt. I looked around the extended Far North family gathered at the graveside. So many brown faces. If I ever have any doubt about exactly who at least half of me is, all I have to do is come back to Kaitaia. “You’re a Hori just like the rest of us,” the cousins joke as we sit on car bonnets afterwards, frantically sucking at cigarettes and talking about how long it’s been since we gave up the smokes.
And they’re right. I am a Māori. In my own funny way. And it’s connected to here, the Far North where my great grandfather, the Jewish trader, met and married Katerina, a high-ranking Ngāti Kuri woman. They started a family and set up trade stores to service the far northern gum fields. This should be the place I feel the most grounded, and yet I don’t. To be honest I don’t even know why I feel so ambivalent about the north. I think it’s somehow tangled up with my mother’s trenchant unhappiness that is deeply buried here in a location she never learned to love.
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