On knowing who you are and who you are from
Some reflections on culture, biculturalism and identity
Engaging with poetic inquiry as a way of being and knowing, the author uses autoethnography and poetry to explore identity and to lay open the ideas of self in relation to culture and biculturalism. In this paper the author explores her immediate Western cultural contextual understandings in relation to the ancestral, historical context that has shaped her, and how these might be revealed in the bicultural context of Aotearoa-New Zealand. The invitation to deepen these understandings begins with her encounters with te Ao Māori. The paper and the poems unfold how mātauranga Māori might foster an expanded horizon such that the author can no longer consider her Pākehā (non-indigenous) ‘self’ an isolated ‘I’, but rather as deeply embedded in the world. The kōrero tracks her shift to consider herself in relationship to her ancestors (whakapapa) and her place(s) in the world (tūrangawaewae) where she is most connected to those ancestors and the earth. Supporting and woven throughout the text is the spine of a poem. Written over the course of a decade the poem, Pepeha, continues to grow and evolve as the writer’s understandings change and develop.
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