… connections

Recently, my friend and colleague Moria, and I were invited to attend a gallery and exhibition opening. It’s Ok to be Me – curated by talented New Zealand artist Shannon Novak.
This was a satellite project for the 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Art Gallery l Gallery of Modern Art. Shannon Novak is also the founder of the Safe Space Alliance, a global LGBTQI+ led non-profit organisation which helps people identify, navigate, and create safe spaces for the LGBTQI+ community. 

As I mentioned, I attended the exhibition opening with my close friend, Moria, who ten days after the exhibition, wrote a fantastic article on March 31 – Transgender Day of Visibility. …seriously, you should read it!  Her strength, resilience, friendship, and council; simply mean the world to me.  Hopefully by the end of this article, you catch the sub context of safe spaces – identity – where one belongs.

Another guest at the It’s Ok to be Me exhibition opening was Uncle Wayne Fossey – Elder in Residence @USQ. (Wayne Fossey was born in Gubbi Gubbi country located at Nambour. His father’s tribe is Gurang, north Gladstone and his mother’s tribe is Yugambeh, Gold Coast area. In Wayne’s words, “My grandfather on my dad’s side, was a fella born near Raglan, he was taken by a white fella and put on board a ship. He ended up wandering the west of Queensland.”)

“…hey Uncle Wayne, I learned a new word recently, that made the last 3 years just fall into place. Tūrangawaewae…”

“oh yeah Jas, …a Māori word…  ‘a place to stand’…
you know, it’s like we’d say,  “your country”…or “where ya mob is from?”

“yeah Uncle, exactly! Hey, I’d love to share a song with you…it’s choice aye” lol

“Jingeri Jason, Many many thanks. This is great and I shall pass it on as well.”

When I first started working in New Zealand; I really needed to understand WHERE I was working. I researched local history, and kept researching; the well is deep, so to speak. 

Early in my reading, I became fascinated by the Polynesian navigator Kupe.  Hence, the name of the place central to my connection – Te Whitianga-o-Kupe (the place where Kupe crossed over). My curiosity about this place and it’s people has been insatiable… It kind of became my own personal heritage trail. My perceived personal connection; to Whitianga, Kupe and Ngāti Hei was sealed, even before I was able to stand in that place. The branding – May 2019 …and a wheke at the same time too.

So, back to that song I shared with Uncle Wayne;
Tūrangawaewae – from NZ hip-hop artist Tipene featuring Maisey Rika & Troy Kingi

Tūrangawaewae – tūranga (standing place), waewae (feet),
it is often translated as ‘a place to stand‘.

Tūrangawaewae are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our foundation, our place in the world, our home.

I originally came across this song, early 2021… while scouring for new NZ music… it became part of Tipene’s August 2021 release Heritage Trail. Tūrangawaewae, saw (Stephen Harmer, aka) Tipene, become a top 5 finalist for the APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award 2021. (…he was a SilverScroll top ten finalist in 2012 too – Westside Hori)
Due to the C-bug restrictions globally, Tipene was unable to Tour the album until May 2022.

It’s  nostalgic, proud, and deeply connected to identity. Tipene celebrates his culture and tipuna, welcoming us to celebrate Te Ao Māori.

Featuring vocals from Maisey Rika and Troy Kingi, ‘Turangawaewae’ epitomises bilingual excellence with the message to stay true to yourself.

From the first moment I heard the song, Tūrangawaewae, it seemed to have a message for me, as did the whole album it seems. Heritage Trail, features a plethora of songs that are simply an education to me.  An education in Māori history, culture, people and language. Oh, then you come across the song Kupe – “..journey on a waka hourua that came right through here…”  

…full circle again… we’re back to Te Whitianga-o-Kupe   |Kupe, the true OG|  and you’re not going to believe it, Tipene Harmer and his family actually live in Whitianga too. I am so looking forward to a conversation with him soon. (that’s a story for another day). [check TIPENE with Leo Magri on ALTBAYS podcast #18 …highly recommended chat]

Every time I listen to this album, I find myself looking up more history, stories and language. Tipene is a wonderfully talented storyteller and guardian of indigenous knowledges. (..the same reason Uncle Wayne is such a legend in my heart; he is a proud caretaker of indigenous knowledge, and an incredible Storyteller ? …almost as good as Uncle Herb Warton )
 kino kē Tipene


places where we feel especially empowered and connected…

So, that’s what this article is about… connection to country – a place to belong,
identity – it’s ok to be me,
and respect, on every level.

Check out Tūrangawaewae – Tipene featuring the amazing talents of Maisey Rika & Troy Kingi


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