27 Oct 2018

Arrival in the Hokianga - 13th November (Vignette 1)

As I drove towards the sandhills on the horizon I was very conscious that this trip would be very different than previous visits to the Hokianga. This was not just about the connection one makes with the environment, landscape and known Whanau but an acute awareness that I was endeavouring to dig deeper into the social and historical context of the Hokianga. I sensed new learnings and friendships would be an offshoot to the growing excitement - arising within. 

In particular, I was much more aware of the small community of Whirinaki. A community one drives through on State Highway 12 to get to Pakanae where my father spent his formative years with mother Keita and father Tere. The women I am writing about came from this community. Because of my research, I had gained a heightened awareness of the history and social fabric of Whirinaki and my desire was to build upon that understanding.

Reflecting... about those women who had come before
When I pulled up at the Urupa (cemetery) in Pakanae I parked next to a couple of other vehicles. As I stood in front of Keita and Tere’s headstones I was deep in thought but aware of another couple a few rows in front. The view beyond the Urupa is the Hokianga Harbour and across the Harbour, it's glorious sandhills - well known.

The couple in front made a move towards the exit gate and as he passed he raised his eyes to say Kia Ora and noted the headstones I was present at.   I mentioned that they were my father’s parents and he commented that my wife Alexa is part of your Whanau. Before I realised we were both in an embrace and trying to work out how in ‘a moment in time', that this connection was made? Eliza was visiting her parents’ graves and heading back to Auckland. My journey to the Hokianga commenced three days earlier. Yes, in that embrace I did feel overwhelmed. Nonetheless, a new Whanau connection and communication was the outcome!  

On the following day, I attended the Anglican Service in Whirinaki and part of this service included singing hymns in Maori. I did not find this difficult because during my primary school years it was not uncommon to sing Maori songs. However, back then one was not expected to understand the meaning of the words. Nor was it included in the educational curriculum. So I discovered that all I needed to do was listen at the commencement of the hymn to pick up the pace and sounds and away I'd go. This was a surprise I must say.

Viti and Minister Marina (NAERA) inside St David's church in Whirinaki
Such experiences continued and reflected in the analogy of a snowball throughout the week. After Sunday's Service, I met up with Phoebe Watkins who had laid the foundations for my visit and her value cannot be underestimated. As was the contribution of so many, their storytelling and willingness. It warmed my spirit and soul. 

The importance of land and water will make up Vinyette 2. 
Warm regards
Viti x

27 Sep 2018

Being nimble while writing....

Well, my intent was to blog more regularly after my return from Sri Lanka. However, that has not proven to be because the ebb and flow of LIFE have determined otherwise. I am learning to be at peace with that ebb and flow.

The value in doing so has me heading back to the Hokianga in October to spend a week in the area where fathers maternal ascendents lived. So my writing has been replaced by planning for this trip and communication with Phoebe Watkins who lives in Rangi Point, Hokianga. I look forward to meeting her in person. She has been very active on my behalf of which I am most grateful.

We first met through a letter Phoebie wrote to my father back in August 2001- on behalf of her parents. Father then included her letters in one he wrote to me that same year. When I commenced this manuscript in early 2018 I thought I wonder if I could get hold of Phoebie? I reached out and was able to locate her through Ngaire Slade also living in Perth.

Sometime later I was able to locate Phoebie who lives at Rangi Point in the Hokianga. As they say, the rest is history! When I emailed niece Kiri recently about my pending trip back to the Hokianga she came back with a saying I have not heard for many years. You are picking up the breadcrumbs Aunty.
Nieces:  Piki - Myself - Kiri attending the 2016 Indigenous International Research Conference hosted by
Nga Pae Ote Maramatanga - Auckland University N.Z. 
This trip was not anticipated at the commencement of writing, early 2018. However, a journey eagerly anticipated and the opportunity to meet people I have been in contact with is such a bonus. Sometimes we have to listen to our inner thoughts and allow them to bloom. I am very aware that this trip will enrich not only the manuscript but my understanding of my father's maternal ascendants and meeting Whanau that have emerged.

Take care in the interim

26 Aug 2018

Oh, my goodness

I had a sense when I commenced my manuscript in January 2018 that there would be new material that would evolve. There always is, when research is involved especially when the focus is historical. What I had not anticipated were the GEMS that would emerge. In some cases, the unknown is now known.

One such example is father’s tale about the Manunui Boarding House where he lived as a single man. Until now that was all I knew with no idea of the name of the Boarding House or location in Manunui. While we were recording this period, I did not occur to me to ask the specifics. I was just delighted that we were capturing his stories.  

During one of my earlier trips to Taumarunui, N.Z. I had met up with Ron Cooke who operates a business Abundant Past Ltd. Ron compiled the Roll back the years series and the material he has gathered over the years, is significant. Therefore, I thought it was worth asking him the question, do you have a photo of the Boarding House in Manunui during the 1930’s – 1940’s located near the Manunui Fire Brigade?

Dominion Boarding House, Manunui 
Sure, enough along with other requested material the above photo arrived. What a joy to have received. This, in turn, enabled me to ‘join the dots’ between Ron and my material which was a treat! An example of this is the realization that in Vol 3 of the republished roll back the years series. I had viewed and read this material but not made the connection until I received the image.

The above photo, A 1929 view, from the fire brigade tower, of {Ellis and Burnand’s] sawmill and box factory. Compiled by Ron Cooke, Roll back the years, Vol 3 Pg.356, Republished November 2010 – photo courtesy NZ Forest Service collection, Wellington (ref: 13096).

The joy of writing this manuscript continues.
Go well

30 Jul 2018

"From Whom Do I come"?

The above question is part of a quote which I have recently inserted into my manuscript.

The author is Bidois, E. whose explanation of Whakapapa, 2006 on the 10th October captures my endeavours in researching and writing this book.  

What has emerged - seven months on with writing - is an emerging pattern. I have anchored five sections of my book - each with sub-headings. Section two (2) onwards is a known from, "Whom Do I come?" My mother's English maternal heritage was very influential during my formative years. I recall during my early adult years father saying, you were going to live in a white man's world daughter so to him it made sense that their influence was beneficial. 

On the other hand, Angela Wanhalla's book, ‘Matters of the Heart" provides a broader study of interracial marriages which I have found immensely beneficial and thought-provoking.

"By marrying a white man, a Maori woman was engaged in the project of assimilation..." and then goes on to reveal "...it had to involve a man of respectability who had the capacity to educate and 'civilise' his wife." 

However, "greatest public scrutiny was reserved for those Pakeha women who married across racial lines." Which were the experience of my parent's case and many others as I recall during the 1940's and beyond? 

What has become evident in my research is the stark contrast of women's longevity in cross-cultural families. My research to date shows that father's maternal Tupuna's and sisters - all bar one - did not have the longevity of life like my mother's side. That, of course, is another story!

Sourced on 31 July 2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokianga and
map generated by NASA's World Wind program
The above Hokianga harbour and its estuaries generated by NASA provides an overview of some of the communities and towns that my manuscript is interwoven. Whirinaki and Pakanae located on the right-hand side of the harbour entrance and opposite the sand hills (on the left) and further North are the communities which my Tupuna are associated with.

The intent is to return to posting more regularly as I move towards the completion of my manuscript. 
In the interim take care.
Best wishes

27 Jun 2018

Maternal lineage continued...

In my last post, I spoke about the maternal generation of women in Sri Lanka that we had the pleasure of meeting. Since that posting, I have received Nicla on the left Great Grandmother passed away in late 2017. I recently received this photo below which includes Rocelin (2nd from the right) who passed away in 2017. She was the eldest member of these descendants.
Nicla, Dishna, Rocelin and Mercy.
Now back working on my manuscript the above photo brings to mind that I am unable to insert similar or images of my Maori maternal ascendants. Over time I have only seen one of father's mother, Keita and Koro Tere.  The whereabouts of this photo remain unknown. Therefore, I will need to be creative and sensitive to this while working with the material gathered.  

After our visit to Oscar and Dishna’s they transported us to a small garment manufacturer in the same village.  What an opportunity to see first-hand how this business ran its operations which employs local women and men.

Viti meeting employees 
Sureka, the supervisor of this workforce was generous with her information and informed that their products are distributed to local and export markets. Their workforce consists of 20-23 employees which include trainees. Sureka has been with the company for 16 years. The opportunity did arise to speak first-hand with the companies Manager/Owner. 

Sureka, Dishna and Viti
I look forward to sharing updates as I progress through my manuscript in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Take care in the interim.

12 Jun 2018

Sri Lankan Maternal Lineage

Our most wonderful visit to Sri Lanka has come to an end.  So many experiences and memories remain. I was blown away the attention to detail in the tourism and hospitality industries. Street food was a whole another experience for someone like me, who does not eat curries or spiced food.  Once again, I tried but did not prevail.

The last week in Sri Lanka provided an unexpected set of circumstances. Firstly, while speaking with our tour guide Oscar Perera a National Tourist Guide Lecturer. I asked him if his wife worked?  After further discussion and my sharing with him the work that I have been involved with in Nepal we arranged to meet his wife Dishna who had established a small business called, Green Grass Garden at their home in Negombo, Sri Lanka. 

 If you travel to Sri Lanka you just may wish to experience this opportunity.

Contact details: Dishna Perera: 031-2225966 / 076-7170672 / 077-5483866
No: 119/C1, Nugawela Road, Katuwapitiya, Negombo, Sri Lanka
Email: Oscarperera@me.com

On arrival it was a delight to meet Dishna and Oscar’s extended family, who assist with the cooking classes on making traditional Sri Lankan meals. The area that this takes place is the front building which was previously Dishna's mother's home. Oscar and Dishna have retained the foundations of the original home which now hosts their guests and cooking classes. In Sri Lankan tradition the mother’s house is known as the Grand House and very symbolic.

I could not help but reflect on the stark contrast to the maternal side of my father’s ascendants. Here I was enjoying the company of this maternal lineage of women whose motivation is to contribute to their new home currently being built behind their enterprise. 

On the other hand, if I was to include in this instance my mother’s English maternal lineage I had experienced similar when my parents bought the seven-day a week corner store in Taumarunui. Mother and Gran ran the shop 6 days a week and I ran it on a Sunday while at High School so they could have a day off. 

Nicla (Dishna's daughter) Mercy Dishna's Mother, Dishna and I.

What a pleasure to meet Oscar's family whose daughter Nicla is undertaking Economic Studies at university. Nicla added that she was particularly interested in the business side of her course. The fourth and previously eldest member of this maternal lineage of Sri Lankan women, Rosaline, passed away in late 2017, not that long ago. 

How poignant to hear how these four women had spent so much time together over four (4) generations. This is in such contrast with the manuscript I am currently working with my father’s maternal lineage of Maori Tupuna Wahines. While sitting amongst this lineage of women it was evident the respect they have for one another.  Communication was undertaken through translation and English and I was left with a sense, that everyone contributions, formed  parts of the whole.  

Dishna’s 2nd business venture, along with four (4) other women, who are members of a Corporation (30 members) provides a platform to understand the ‘needs’ of its membership. One recent example was a proposal put forward by their Office Bearers, on their behalf, to approach the relevant Political Minister for roadside huts (pop ups) next to one another - for five (5) consecutive days a month. Previously they had been selling in a temporary building. These entrepreneurial women were informed the day before we met, that they had been successful. What a special note to end this post on.

 I have one more connection to Sri Lanka that I will share in my next post. In the mean time it is back to my manuscript. Not as easy as I had anticipated after 6 weeks of being disconnected.  It has taken me a few hours to gather what were my rhythms before I went away.

Winter is upon us.
Take care