| By Kahu Kutia | Twitter: @kahukutia | Instagram: @hekākanoahau | email: email@example.com
I’m sitting in a van, on the side of the road. It’s a grey day on the edge of rain and we’re all wrapped up in beanies, scarves, jackets and thick socks. To my left is a marae, it’s windows shut and the paepae empty. To my right is an urupā.
As I sit in the van, I watch three people stand outside the urupā for a bit then eventually work up the courage to unlatch the gate and make their way in. What I’m witnessing is Geneva Alexander-Marsters visit the graves of her kuia and uncle for the first time. She’s accompanied by her father and her half-brother.
We brought Geneva into this kaupapa to make music for our stories. As the kōrero evolved, we found out that Geneva had never visited her marae. It was something she had always wanted to do before she turns 30.
For this episode, Geneva agreed to take me on the road with her. I don’t think either of us knew what we were getting into. More than anything I hoped this journey would bring answers for Geneva. Her dad Daniel was an important part of the journey, but hard to track down.
In the 20th century, the Māori population went from 85 percent rural to 85 percent urban. State uplift, employment, and land alienation are just a few of the many reasons that we came to the city in the first place. Geneva’s own disconnection stemmed from her father, who was uplifted by the state following the death of his mother. Geneva is candid about her father’s time in boys homes.
“If you want to talk about a systematic disenfranchisement of indigenous people they’re part of that stolen generation.”
What I didn’t anticipate was how important the return would be for Daniel as well. This wasn’t Daniel’s first time here, but it’s a place of traumatic memories for him. He’s spent most of his life in the city. Like Daniel, Geneva learned about te ao Māori from other places.
“We’re urban Maori in the city but that doesn’t mean that you’re lost,” says Geneva. “When that knowledge is taken away from you, you make do with what you have.”
All that Geneva knew was a few names. I always felt that this journey would be a success even if we just stood on the whenua where she was from. We were heading up the coast with a few names, a few patchy memories, and no kuia to call Geneva in.
I think it’s natural that a family always has mysteries to uncover, whether or not you grew up knowing your whānau history, or connected to your marae. Episode 6 felt important to me because I think it’s something we can all relate to, Māori and non-Māori, whether you know your whakapapa or not.
It was such a privilege to tell this story, and I still can’t believe that Geneva trusted a stranger and a recorder to come with her and her whānau on this haerenga to find her story. Episode six is a journey of reconnection.
He Kākano Ahau is a podcast written, researched, and hosted by Ngāi Tūhoe writer, activist, and young person Kahu Kutia. Kahu now lives in Wellington after spending the first 18 years of her life in the valleys of Te Urewera.
Over six episodes, Kahu explores stories of Māori in the city, weaving together strands of connection. At the base is a hunch that not all of us who live in the city are disconnected from te ao Māori.