An opinion does not make tikanga - Nga Manu Kōrero 2018
Jointly managed by PPTA and the Ministry of Education, the Ngā Manu Kōrero speech competition has been encouraging fluency in te reo Māori and English since 1965.
This year Kamo High School student, and aspiring pastry chef, Wynyard Peeni’s speech on gender discrimination earned him the Korimako trophy for senior English.
Gender doesn’t have to define your role within kapa haka
Ko Taranaki toku maunga
Ko Waitara toku awa
Ko Aotea toku waka
Ko Muru Raupatu toku marae
Ko Ngati Ngamotu toku hapu
Ko Te Atiawa toku iwi
I te taha o toku papa, no Te Orewai
Ko Darryl Morgan Peeni toku papa
I te taha o toku mama, no Te Atiawa
Ko Matehaere Gloria Bristowe toku mama
Ko Te Hira Peeni toku tuahine
Ko Nasir Peeni taku teina
Ko Wynyard-Devogue Peeni toku ingoa
How many of us know the number of times the All Blacks have won the Rugby World Cup?
Now how many of us know the number of times the Black Ferns have won the Rugby World Cup? The answer is five. And the fact that most of us don’t know that shows what happens when we have attitudes that discriminate based on gender. We miss out, and we devalue people who work really hard to achieve their goals because of our own bias.
I live in a world where I am defined by my gender. As a Māori, my inherited mana dictates that I whaikorero, I haka, I hold a taiaha, and that I am a born warrior. But I do not believe that I am limited to the mana that I have inherited. I want to talk about the mana that I have earned.
Gender doesn’t always have to define your role within kapa haka. I want to challenge that the mana to perform certain items in kapa haka can be earned, and doesn't always have to be inherited depending on gender.
Skills and skill sets
On the kapa haka stage, this means that there are certain things we accept males doing, and certain things we accept females doing. There are some skills that are seen as ‘masculine’ and some skills that are seen as ‘feminine’. But I believe that mana tane and mana wahine do not dictate what skills a person is capable of learning and perfecting.
Hauora (Part 1)
Gender discrimination and gender bias is very damaging for Māori hauora, especially mental health. Transgender Māori youth have the highest rates of suicide and serious mental health issues among all youth groups in Aotearoa. The stats are everywhere.
The attitude is, tikanga comes first, tikanga is first. But where is the ‘rule’ that states that only one gender may perform an item? Where is the ‘rule’ that states wahine are not allowed to perform the wero even though they can be better than the tane? I asked my kaiako, they didn’t know. I researched, and couldn’t find the answer - but what I did find were strong opinions of INDIVIDUAL people who stated that men should stick to men’s items and women should stick to women’s items. Now, I respect an opinion but an opinion does not make tikanga.
Hauora (Part 2)
I know of many individuals who perform beautifully alongside the opposite gender. But, because of society’s attitude, they decide to switch to guitaring or decide to leave kapa haka altogether because of FEAR. The fear of being ridiculed and being ashamed for doing what they love.
I know what this feels like. If you haven’t guessed already, I am a passionate performer of the poi who, in the past, HAS been relentlessly mocked for doing what I love! I’m lucky that my pouako kapa haka are open-minded and are proud of me, and give me the opportunity to showcase my skills. I feel free when I do the poi - an extension of my body. But I feel bad for other tane who aren’t allowed to do what I do.
I want to change the norm
Sometimes, I get the impression that Māori are too afraid to progress because we are terrified of losing what little tikanga wasn’t already stolen by colonists. These common values are what have kept us together from the beginning. However, we need to shift our focus to the days ahead of us. To me the future is an opportunity to evolve and to grow.
Kate Sheppard was the first lady to ever vote in New Zealand. Back then women never had the same status and rights as men. Men believed women were timid and fragile like glass - but nowadays we know that a woman is more like a teabag, in that you never know how tough she is until she gets herself in hot water! Especially wahine Māori. This is why gender discrimination is so dangerous. It creates false ideas of what a person should and shouldn’t be. For Māori to evolve we have to take those first steps away from gender discrimination.
I have spoken about stereotyping skills and skill sets based on gender. I have discussed how gender discrimination can affect a person’s well-being and mana. And I have shared my opinion on this matter and how it makes me feel. My goal was to make you understand that gender doesn’t have to define your role in kapa haka. I challenge that the mana to perform certain items in kapa haka can be earned. It doesn’t have to be inherited depending on gender. I know that traditional gender roles are very real, and flipping the norm is difficult for even the strongest, funniest, smartest person. But I want to change the norm.