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CE's Pen - August 2019

August 2019

Ngā mihi nui, ngā mihi mahana, ngā mihi aroha. Tēnā kotou katoa, Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh, Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Kia orana, Nisa bula vinaka, Taloha ni, Fakalofa lahi atu, Ni hao, Namaste, and warm greetings. 

I’ve been reflecting this week on the wise words of our late kaumatua, Papa Kūkupa Tirikatene:

 “E kore e taea e te whenu kotahi ki te raranga i te whāriki kia mōhio tātou ki ā tātou. Mā te mahi tahi ō ngā whenu, mā te mahi tahi ō ngā kairaranga, ka oti tenei whāriki.”

 (The tapestry of understanding cannot be woven by one strand alone. Only by the working together of strands and the working together of weavers will such a tapestry be completed.)

 On one level, this beautiful whakatauāki is a reminder that none of us can achieve anything worthwhile alone, so we need to collaborate. On a deeper level, Papa Kūkupa’s “tapestry of understanding” is also about how we understand one another, as individuals and as peoples. As he says, that takes work, and it has to be done together.

With the events in Ihumātao over recent weeks, we’ve seen yet another reminder of how far we all have to go towards building intercultural understanding. So often the conversations and media reports I’m hearing are based on a single worldview and set of values, and at best a sketchy understanding of relevant history.

Given that most of us pakeha received little or no instruction at school on the language, culture or history of our own nation, that’s maybe not surprising, but it needs to change.

We will only really understand one another, our ways of thinking and the things we hold dear, if we make an effort to spend time together, listening more than talking, reflecting deeply on our own thinking and learning about the history that has brought us all to this place.

This is not about trying to somehow blend into one culture. Like weaving, relationships work best when each strand/person/group retains their uniqueness, while coming to understand the other more deeply, and both find ways to work/weave together. As one of our amohau, Matua Rereata Makiha, often reminds us, the worldviews of Māori and Pakeha are both strong and valuable. If we try to mix them, both will lose their strength; rather they should be seen as parallel ways of understanding the world.

All too often in education, our idea of cultural understanding is saying “kia ora” and celebrating mātariki. As Professor Mere Berryman pointed out at the May TMEF hui, these superficial responses are not enough to enable learners to feel they belong and are respected for who they are. She challenged us all to look at our practice and to make some deep and deliberate shifts, rather than looking for quick fixes. You can see more of her message in the Tāmaki Makaurau Education Forum article below.

None of this is easy, and we at COMET certainly can’t say that we’ve reached any answers, but we’re asking the questions of ourselves, and we invite you to do the same. 

Ngā mihi,

Susan Warren

Chief Executive