100 signatures reached
To: Hana Koko
An Open Letter- Awhi to our Hana Koko, our Māori Santa
To our organisers, and to our Hana Koko:
Thank you for this opportunity, thank you for your courage.
We are proud and we are not afraid to be seen and to be heard, and we see no call for apology.
In the spirit of what Christmas truly is, in its essence, we wrap you with our support and honour your intentions. We are here with you and the space we hold for you is much stronger than any unkindness. Please know that we look forward to continuing to learn and share, together in strength, with open minds and hearts.
We look forward to continuing to grow ourselves and one another, and developing the cultural connections and understanding that we need, seeking ultimately to learn to embody tauwhirotanga, manaakitanga me kotahitanga; Compassion, kindness and unity (simplified translations). We are here walking with you, and here we will stay.
Why is this important?
Our Nelson Santa Parade this year was unique, in that for the first time, the Māori interpretation of Santa Claus was given centre stage. Not as an afterthought, not as a token, not half the stage, but centre stage.
The intention behind this letter is to counteract the hurtful voices that emerged with an outpouring of overwhelming awhi, aroha, and deep appreciation. The intention is to tautoko the delight that was felt by many.
We seek to express the heartfelt cheer we feel for our Hana Koko, our parade organisers and for our tangata whenua. Through partnership we desire to honour, celebrate and nurture the Māori culture, and the world it opens us to. It is a culture that is rich, layered and profoundly valuable. A culture that teaches much, that has many a beautiful lesson to offer, a beautiful story to tell. It is a culture that has been relegated to the backstage, included as an addition, an extra, a token, for far, far too long.
We seek to tautoko the need to push biculturalism further. To be bold. To affirm the courage that tangata whenua have always shown, as you did Mātua Rob, to stand up with openness and pride, without being afraid of being hurt in response. It's time to shed light on those spaces that still remain in shadow, and we are here with you, doing this together, behind you all the way.
We seek to support Te Ao Māori with a constant empathy and a willingness to learn and challenge our pre-conditions, for those of us who still need to grow. We, whose names are signed here, are Māori, Pākeha, and a million things in between. Many of us know what it is to stand up and be shot down.
We want it to be known that we are happy with our Hana Koko. That many of us have been waiting for Hana Koko. That we hope to see much more of our tangata whenua taking central stage and letting their voice be heard. But more than heard; listened to.
🎄 If this letter resonates, please sign your name to show your awhi/support for our Hana Koko and our organisers, and more broadly, our aroha for Te Ao Māori. 🎄
Many people have stated that the response was simply a question of being genuinely surprised or disappointed that what they expected, what they were used to, what was advertised, was not what was presented. People have expressed that things were simply not well communicated. Or that they love biculturalism, but that there should have been warning, that there should have been two Santas.
I wonder if people would have felt the same level of surprise, or disappointment, if they had received a real, tangible and significant dose of Te Ao Māori in their lives, if their children had been taught, and shown that Te Ao Māori makes up a primary and essential part of the culture of their country. I wonder if Māori culture hadn’t been stamped out so efficiently, so enormously, if people would be experiencing the same level of cultural dissonance right now.
We must ask ourselves why, in a country where there are three official languages, where it is acknowledged that Pākeha are not the founders of this country, that a Christmas parade cannot feature a ‘Santa’ that is Māori, wearing Māori clothing, without people recoiling, or experiencing genuine surprise.
Why is it, that we claim that we support a bicultural society, yet we expect the dominant majority of events, traditions, resources, supports and initiatives to be Pākeha and to support the Pākeha objective?
Even with an entire city built on Pākeha principles, an entire parade that is Pākeha, dominated by Pākeha values systems, even with reindeer and sleighs, bells and mistletoe, people claim that with our Hana Koko, it wasn’t bicultural, and we were missing the white Santa. It would have been bicultural with two Santas, some people say. Or even a Māori man in a white Santa’s suit. A Hana Koko inside a waka could have been displayed: it seems this is okay as long as it is not at the cost of Pākeha culture, expectations, values, and norms. We who have signed our names find this to be insufficient as an accepted status quo. We do not seek to attack these views, just question them, and gently invite some fresh perception, and respectful discussion. We raise the issue of the current societal conditions that have resulted in these lines of thought. It is time to cede, that as long as we claim to be bicultural, that we can expect these (particularly major, community funded, council supported) events to be a mixture of both native and Pākeha culture. This should come at no shock. We should expect Māoridom at every corner, in every store, in every exchange of service. We should not expect Māoridom to feature as an aside, but should be prepared for a Māori person, Māori words, Māori garments, Māori waiata, at any time, in any role, in any situation. And so should our children. This is true biculturalism. We should be normalising Māori culture, a blending of cultural themes and ideas, at every turn. Not just the ones we selectively pick.
Imagine how the Māori children in the audience must have felt. For possibly the first time, in an everyday, traditionally white occasion, the headliner looked like them, was representative of them. Possibly for the first time, they were the star of a show that wasn’t a marginalised event, relegated as a separate show, with the specific purpose of being a ‘cultural’ event. There is, of course, deep value in holding space and ceremony for traditions that are solely Māori, but surely it is time that some of us shuffled over and opened the space further.