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Saturday 08 April 2017

Ak Pride: Ngahuia Te Awekotuku

Posted in: Books
By Sarah Murhpy - 17th February 2017

Ngahuia Te Awekotutu has long blended the worlds of activism and academia, from her student days an activist addressing Maori cultural issues to her highly-respected research and authorship and her activism on behalf of lesbians - and by natural extension all gblti people.

She's a featured participant in this Saturday's day-long Same Same but Different literary festival, part of the Auckland Pride Festival.

Via email she 'spoke' with's Sarah Murphy.


SM: You were an active member of 1970s Maori activist group Ngā Tamatoa while studying at University, was this the beginning of your years in activism and why did you feel compelled to become active in this environment?

NTA: No. I was part of the No Maoris No Tour protests in 1966-67, which became Nga Tamatoa a few years later. I was also very active in the anti Vietnam movement. And I was a founding member of Auckland University Womens Liberation which began in August 1970, but really took off in Feb-March 1971. I have always been an advocate for social justice.

SM: In 1972, Nga Tamatoa presented a petition to the Crown to have Te Reo taught in schools. To this day, Te Reo is still not compulsory, would you like to see this change in the near future and do you believe this is possible?

NTA: It needs to be a core, mandatory subject at least until Year 9. Compulsory; then an elective. Te Reo is spoken and heard only on these islands, nowhere else in the world.

SM: The denial of a visitors permit to the US on the grounds that you are homosexual was a catalyst for the gay liberation movement in New Zealand. What are your thoughts on the current situation for queer and gender diverse people in the US and for marginalised communities targeted by Donald Trump? and how can we in New Zealand support these communities?

NTA: Despair and dread, as the haters and phobics and bashers now have Permission from the Highest Office in the Land (USA) / Leader of the Free World to get out there and express themselves. Trump actively inflates fear, and disseminates loathing for "others". We will become targets again; but we will not become victims. The most effective way to show our support in this ugliness and conflict is by making our selves, on these islands, strong. And fearless, in our being, and beliefs. Like we did in 1984, as a nation, against nuclear power.

SM: What do you think of the feminist movement today?

NTA: Exciting, as the young ones - the mokopuna generation - are taking notice. In their music, their art, their thinking. At last. The 2016 Pae Akoranga Wahine (PAW) Women's Studies Association Conference was a brilliant demonstration of their energy, and presence.

SM: Can you tell us about the importance of visibility?

NTA: Come to my Saturday session.

SM: What are the issues that you see the queer and gender-diverse communities here in New Zealand currently facing?

NTA: Issues = People + Time + Place. As well as poverty of the spirit, and the pocket. This is a massive mega question, and I don't do thin or shallow.

SM: What do you believe are the barriers to change?

NTA: Fear. Ignorance. Hatred.

SM: You are a leading expert on tā moko. I am curious, in your research, have you come across a history specific to takatāpui tā moko?

NTA: Maybe.

SM: You have written extensively about your experiences as a Māori woman who identifies as lesbian, what led you to first start writing about this?

NTA: Come to my Saturday session. No one else was writing about or for Maori girls like me, so I had to make words to explain that world for myself. And most of all, for others.

SM: Do you believe conversations around sexuality and gender need to be further opened up in Māori communities?

NTA: Whose communities? Where? This question infers a particular notion that I may not agree with, sorry, so no comment.

SM: Do you think takatāpui voices are unrepresented/misrepresented in the media and in literature?

NTA: Yes

SM: How do you think the wider queer and gender diverse community can better support indigenous people?

NTA: Ask them, not me.

Sarah Murhpy - 17th February 2017

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