Constructing my pepeha got me thinking a lot about home. Even further, about what Māori call tūrangawaewae, or standing ground. Similarly, at the beginning of the semester I had to create a presentation about my identity, including pictures of the people, places, and Appalachian mountains I call home.
This perspective has revealed to me just how important the places we come from are in shaping our identity. For Māori, it is typically the mountain, river/lake/sea, canoe (to Polynesians this is very important), founding ancestor, tribe, sub-tribe, marae, and region that is associated - but your standing ground is not limited to this. Whether it be a mountain, cityscape, desert, ocean, or really anything, Māori view you based on the places you come from.
Studying abroad has taught me a LOT of things so far, but one of the biggest things it has given me is a new appreciation of my home, more importantly, my standing ground.
Those ridge and valley Appalachians I call home hold my heart. There's almost nothing better than crossing over the Lehigh river after time away at college, looking up to the slopes it once carved into Blue mountain. I am proud of where I come from, and I feel these landmarks to truly be my tūrangawaewae.
With that said, I must not forget about the people I come from. To me, family is also oh so important to my identity. They have grown me both literally and figuratively, and can be the most mobile "home" I know.
Not only have I learned so much about the rich culture that represents the roots of New Zealand through lessons and experiences, but I have been encouraged to think about and appreciate my own roots from a new and valuable perspective.
If you haven't already, I strongly recommend pondering your own roots in such a way. If you're not sure how, take a trip to your local landmarks – whatever they may be. Far from home? Dig up some old photos or phone a family member. Whatever your roots may be, I encourage you to never forget to dig them up every once in a while - after all, those very roots are what you've grown from.
If you're interested in creating your own pepeha, the link below provides a fantastic service to help you do just that- and even provides a free jpeg image of your final result!
I would like to especially thank my Māori professor, Rangi Matamua for his dedication to so passionately sharing his culture with the world.