Posted Aug 07

A call for solidarity on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

by Jo Fletcher Manawa
A call for solidarity on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples by Jo Fletcher Manawa

Tēnā koutou katoa.

Ehara ahau i te Māori. Nō Ingarani, nō Tiamana, nō Wīwī, nō Nōwei, nō te pitonga o Āhia hoki ōku tīpuna.

Ko Tarawera te maunga.

Ko Rotorua-Nui-A-Kauhumatamomoe te roto.

Ko Utuhina te awa.

I tupu ake ahau i Rotorua ki Aotearoa.

Kei Rānana ahau e noho ana.

He kaiwhakahaere hanga hōtaka ahau ki MPC Episodic ki Rānana.

Ko Jo ahau.


Greetings everyone!

I am not Māori. My ancestors came from England, Germany, France, Norway, and South East Asia.

Tarawera is the mountain I was raised by.

Rotorua-Nui-A-Kauhumatamomoe is the lake.

Utuhina is the river.

I grew up in Rotorua, Aoeatroa New Zealand, but I live in London now.

I am the Crew Manager for MPC Episodic in London.

My name is Jo.

I admit, at first I really didn’t know what to write when I was asked if I wanted to contribute to The Focus for International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Why? Because I am a product of the colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand. As I’ve said, I am not Māori, but I was raised in a predominantly Māori community, and I’m fiercely proud of this. I am privileged to be a child of a mixed family, having brothers and sisters of Māori, Moriori, Kenyan, and Pākeha (white) heritage.

Storytelling and performance are ingrained deep in my veins, a result of growing up in Rotorua, a town well-known for local legends which have inspired song, dance, art and performance over the centuries. I’ve been inspired to write and tell stories since I was old enough to articulate more than one sentence at a time, educated by the myths and legends belonging to the land I lived on. It was a passion for storytelling that drew me to filmmaking and working in this industry as I grew up and left home to travel the world.

Despite all my travels and adventures so far, nothing has shaken my deep-seated love for my homeland and the people who belong to it. I’ve learned, although I am not Māori, the very least I can do is try my best in this broken world to be an advocate in support of the indigenous people and land that I love. It is from this point of view that I wanted to share the below with you.

He taonga te reo. The language is a treasure.

The language of any indigenous people is a treasure, it should be protected and cherished because it carries the culture and traditions of the people. Once, in my youthful “wisdom” I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if every person spoke a language I could understand? I could travel anywhere in the world without any struggle.” However, now I have learned that the richness of each and every culture I’ve ever had the privilege to spend a bit of time with is embedded in the language.

Take the time this week to learn something about the language of the land you walk on. Support indigenous language.

Poipoia te kakano, kia puawai. Nurture the seed and it will blossom.

Support the continuation and growth of the art of indigenous people by sharing it, investing in it, and passing on the knowledge of it. Do not let it die.

I was privileged to learn kapa haka and attend a small performing arts school when I was fourteen. It is something of a miracle because I am a white girl who really does struggle to sing. Despite the hurdles against me, I kept at it. This was, and still is, pivotal in nourishing my love and respect for Māori culture. I travelled with my classmates to share our culture across Canada and North America in schools and in community centres with the Native American people. I didn’t realise how important this was, and how lucky I was to be involved with it, until I was much older and understood a little more of the depth of systemic racism and oppression of indigenous cultures globally.

I learn the hard way every day that I am not perfect. I’ve too often suffered from the blindness of white privilege. But please take note and remember that the traditions, the art, and the performance of indigenous people is worth fighting for. The world is a much richer place for having it. Support indigenous art forms.

He aha te kai ō te rangatira? He kōrero, he kōrero, he kōrero. What is the food of the leader? It is knowledge, it is communication.

Support indigenous filmmakers.

Support the sharing of knowledge and communication of indigenous cultures, not just this week - but all the time. When Taika Waititi gave his acceptance speech at the Oscars, “I dedicate this to all the indigenous kids that live in the world who want to do art and dance and write stories. We are the original storytellers and we can make it here as well,” I realised we have so much work to do. I have a responsibility given to me in the role I have. I’m part of holding the door open for those who will come after me. Just as much as diversity in the workplace statistically contributes to a more balanced and high performing environment, so too should diversity be present in the pop culture content available to us. We should fight and advocate for this.

It’s my dream, and goal, to have the opportunity to support and work on films of the same ilk as Once Were Warriors (Lee Tamahori, 1994), Whale Rider (Niki Caro, 2002), and Boy (Taika Waititi, 2010). Films that tell a global, often transient, audience about the people who belong to the borrowed or stolen land they live on.

So really, all I’m saying is: take time this week to learn something, support something, and watch something, of the indigenous peoples of the land you live in right now, or of one of the lands your people colonised.

Arohanui, nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Therefore, with much love — greetings to you all. —

Photo above, from Meschelle McDee via Ngati Rānana, shows the author (C) performing as part of Ngati Rānana, the London Māori club, during the Commonwealth Families Day at Westminster Abbey in February 2020.

Orci varius natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.