Wednesday, September 13, 2006

commitment and belonging - part 2

Back in April I wrote a post which this sort of follows on from...

On Monday night Marion & Quentin had their citizenship ceremony at the Town Hall, so they are now bone fide Kiwis.

To become a citizen here you have to swear/affirm allegiance to the Queen and her heirs and successors - a thorny one to swallow for sure, although technically speaking I guess come the glorious revolution (!) whatever replaces the monarchy would still be 'her successors'! I'm not holding my breath for it mind - waiting for Aotearoa NZ to ditch the British monarchy has a much higher chance of happening first and even that's slim. It's a toughy though - as a Brit in Britian you have to swear no such thing (or even affirm it!), having to do so on the other side of the world to be part of a country you've come to to leave Britain behind is a bit galling it must be said.

So to make a point about not just being a Brit in any old Commonwealth country, and to acknowledge the bicultural status of Aotearoa New Zealand M&Q did their ceremony in Māori which caused all manner of excitement and changes to protocol and probably shattered a fair few nerves along the way (not least of which being Quentin's!). They have made a huge commitment to learning Te Reo - the (Māori) language, and you don't just learn the language but the customs and protocols too. So after the ceremony a group of us gathered for karakia (prayer), waiata (songs), a mihi (sort of an introduction to who you are) and kōrero (speeches) from Marion, Quentin and a representative from their Māori class.

Even though I could only understand a fraction of what was being said I found it all very moving, and it reaffirmed my own commitment to being here and my sense of belonging. Standing clasping my taonga (literally treasure, but in this case my Triennial Hei Matau pendant) I understood what was being said about it being the tangata (the people) those who have become their whanau (extended family) who make this place so special to Marion & Quentin and connect them to here. Māori are known as the Tangata Whenua - the people of the land. That connection to the land is held with great importance, in the words of the Dougie MacLean song 'you don't own the land, the land owns you' - he was singing about Scotland but the sentiment is shared here too - possibly partly why I feel so at home.

The two strands of land and people are so intertwined for me here almost like celtic knotwork, interweaving and going back and forth and round in circles. There are places I've felt a strong affinity to without really knowing anyone there at the time, there are people I have a strong link to but have none to where they live and most stops on the continuum in between, then there are the 3 places which for me combine both people and place the strongest - Wellington, Golden Bay and the far North. I can't, and don't want to, try to distill off what it is about any of them that has the strongest 'pull' the place or the people - take one away and I'd still have the other, but to live anywhere I'd need both.

I get to go back to Golden Bay soon for JYF Camp - first time I'll have been back there since I went there over 2 1/2 years ago. Since then I've got to know more people from that community and it'll be great to go back, but much as I love the place and the people I've a sneaking suspicion that the journey to South Island will feel just as much like going the 'wrong way' as it did last time.

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