GUEST POST: Matariki Rising Writing Challenge

I’ve spent part of this evening reading poetry to my sick little boys. They just adore poetry. One of Ronnie’s first outings was to a poetry reading at the Auckland Writers’ Festival. He listened along to readings by Indian-Canadian novelist Jaspreet Singh, Singaporean poet Edwin Thumboo, Vietnamese-Canadian novelist Kim Thúy and the incredible Wellington poet Chris Tse (author of the staggering How To Be Dead In A Year Of Snakes).

Ronnie smiled and cooed quietly as he listened. It seemed to make him calm. It was after that reading that I began to read poetry to the boys. It just seems to quiet them. To put them at peace. So this evening I have been reading to them from the poetry posted under #‎teswiftseven‬ on Facebook. These poems are posted as part of the Matariki event te swift seven: matariki rising writing challenge.

The online event was created by Kani Te Manukura and co-hosted with a friend of mine Krissi – the super power behind Hei Reo Whānau (an amazing initiative to encourage and celebrate speaking te reo Māori at home with your tamariki and mokopuna – go check them out!) Krissi is also a huge inspiration to me. She is not only my friend, but my kaiako.

The aim of te swift seven is simple: to write something, anything, inspired in some way by Matariki. It was there that I saw this poem by my friend Ella. I asked her if I could republish it here and she kindly agreed.

You may know Ella Cartwright as Ella Anais. Ella inspires me so much – as an activist and as a mother. She is kind and generous and  fiercely intelligent. I could talk about her all day.

This post really spoke to me as the mother of two Ngāti Mutunga tamariki. Ngāti Mutunga is an iwi of Wharekauri (Chatham Islands). Many, many of the poems on te swift seven made me tear up. 

My sons are very lucky that as they grow they have so many loved and loving whānau to teach them their whakapapa, to answer their questions, and just to BE there for them. To support my tamariki I speak as much reo in the home as I can. I try to collect kupu and encourage a love of their language. I hope to be fluent. It’s through wahine toa like Krissi that I’m able to do this.

Thank you Ella and Krissi and everyone who celebrates and encourages the use of te reo Māori.

Arohatia te Reo.


Every time my daughter sees a tāne Māori with a moko
she calls him “Māui”.
So foreign to her is this presentation
that she thinks it’s just one person
every time she sees it.
How do I teach a two-year-old ethnicity?
How do I teach her it’s hers?
No one taught me it was mine.


At Te Papa a staff member tells us to put our food away in the play room
‘cos there’s taonga nearby, which is sweet until she bitches about ‘the whānaus’ who bring in KFC and McDs.
“What do you mean by whānau?” I say but I don’t need an answer.
My blood burnt hot under my pale skin, too whakamā to tell her
my daughter and I are Ngāpuhi.

“If anything’s noa here, it’s you lady.
And maybe if this country wasn’t colonised to the hilt tikanga would be
in everyone’s homes and you wouldn’t need to worry that we don’t
all know the same rules.”
That’s not what I say, though.
I say, “Put up a sign.”

I speak to my daughter in reo
while we gather our things.
The woman’s face turns red like mine
as she hears the familiar sounds,
which mean nothing to her.
Now we’re both coloured.


Piece by piece I am placing the reo back in our mouths.
Each time kupu fall off the tiny tongue of tāku tamāhine
I feel a great victory has been won.
Her pronunciation is so good
it’s like her mouth remembers it.

We talk about ngā whetū together and somewhere our tīpuna sing.


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