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Wetback fireplaces, two cars one night, and a camping cat

Yarns with Ma Series, 3 of 3


An honest, stereotype breaking, issue-raising, belly-laugh inspiring, and deeply-touching, slice of life interview series with my Mum about growing up in Aotearoa as a wahine of mixed heritage.


In the final part of Ma’s interview we talk about holidays down the coast, her connection to the whānau ūkaipō (we belong to Te Whānau ā Apanui and probably Ngāti Porou), and differences between generations.


If you’ve never been down to the East Cape before, search Spotify for Rob Ruha’s ‘SH35’ to set the scene. Now picture oceanside roads, beautiful clear water over rocky outcrops filled with no kaimoana whatsoever (eh whānau?), and most probably some kids on hōiho to complete the scene.


Shelley with cousins in Te Kaha



Listen to the audio as you read!


Click play on the left to hear the story.






"So you mentioned that your whānau originally came over to Rotorua from the coast and I know that sometimes you used to go back to Maketū and Te Kaha for holidays.


Can you tell us about what you did there? What that was like?"

"Yeah, so we used to go down to the coast pretty much every year—well any year that we could, depending on whether we had a car or not and we would stay with people.

I don't know how they were related but my Aunty Roka was something to do with the school down there. She wrote one of the first textbooks on learning Maori; Learn Maori with Parehau and Sharon. Most of the time the whanau spoke Maori to each other but of course not to Mum and Dad or us, although they never called me Shelley, always Paretiu."


(Mums's middle name is Pare)

"Another aunty, Erena, used to run the shop down there and the post office—and there were lots of others… Uncle Friday and… heaps of them…

I can't remember all their names but I remember when we were younger, my brother Paul must have been about maybe one or two or something because we've got photos somewhere of them bathing him in an enamel tub. There was no power so the water was heated from, you know, a wetback fireplace—an aga range thing.

I also have this memory of all the aunties collecting seaweed. For some reason I think it was to sell for making agar for science thingys as well as for eating, but I don’t know if that’s a memory or a dream

I don't think there were phones. There was nothing, so we.. I don't know what we did…

We used to camp…. we used to take our cat… and um just hang out with them most of the time."



"You took your cat?"

Mum shrugs with a smile and I wonder whose idea it was. For some reason I go straight to Ahah (my Grandad).

"And then there was the pub down the road, which was exactly like Two Cars, One Night, where they’d park us outside and go to the pub with all the aunties and uncles.

Most of the aunties didn’t actually drink and Mum didn’t either so they just went for the conversation and singing I reckon.

The main thing I can remember about that is the toilets. I think you used to have to come outside on this bit of verandah and the toilets were called Wāhine and Tāne and we always used to think that was hilarious."


Shelley's dad, Percy Anaru, (left) with friends outside Te Kaha Hotel.


"Really? So not many places used to have Wāhine and Tāne on their toilets?"

"Nope.


What else... the kids used to all go down at night to the beach and light a barbecue, make a fire on the beach and you know take guitars and things like that. Only I was never allowed to gooooooo."

As Mum draws out that ‘go’, I picture her arguing with Nana the same way I used to argue with Mum. I wonder who was the worst teenager… probs me… probs by a long shot.

"And when you went there did you get to eat lots of kaimoana?"

"Yes. We did. That was all we lived on basically."

"What kind of things would you eat?"

"Um seaweed, mussels. There was a crayfish factory there. Fish, tons of fish because my uncles all fished. We must have had some shellfish of some sort, I don't know what, it wouldn’t have been tuatua—probably pipi. Actually Paul and Mags both got hepatitis."

"From?"

"From seafood…"

"Yikes, not so romantic then…

Did you ever go to the marae at Te Kaha?"

"Yeah, yeah we did."


Te Kaha marae

"Can you tell us about the marae?"

"Well we didn’t… you know, we used to just go walk around it and Dad would say ‘You know that’s my dad’s flagstone,' and 'My dad built this,' and all the rest of it.

I remember we were once up there having a look around and a wedding turned up and they made us sit at the top table And yeah, that was really cool."

"Did Ahah know the whānau who were getting married?"

"No, it was just because of Tiweka."


(Tiweka is Mum's Grandad if you're getting lost.)

"So what exactly is the story around Tiweka and the marae?"

"So, he… I’m not too sure but he was instrumental in getting it built and the flag post at the front of it commemorates him for doing that. I know my Aunty Ata was the first woman to cross the threshold too."


Tiweka Anaru (Shelley's Grandad), the opening of Tūkaki - photo courtesy of Judy Anaru, Aunty Ata.


"That seems pretty significant…like quite a major link for our whānau. We must have been really involved in the community back then. Can you tell me anymore about that? About the work the family did in the community?"

"Mmm, I don't really know—only that he and Sir Apirana Ngata worked for the Māori Land Board Trust and—well they set it up really and Apirana Ngata’s not loved universally for that.


But that's all I know. And I know that Tiweka was very well respected. But otherwise I don't know very much about him at all."


"Do you think there was a sense of pride in the family about the work he did and his relationship with Sir Apirana Ngata?"


"Oh, most definitely. Yeah, most definitely. Still is.


Tiweka Anaru (Shelley's grandad) with Sir Apirana Ngata, 1986. Photo courtesy of Judy Anaru.


But you know, my grandparents died a long time before I was born. So I never got to know them and it's not like people talked about them a lot—or not to me anyway.


Dad didn't talk about them. Neither mum or dad talked very much about their parents. Every time they mentioned them they’d end up in tears."


My heart breaks for my grandparents and Mum laughs if off gently.

"Can you share any other special memories from around that Coast area?"

"Oh we just did the same thing as we did in Rotorua. We just visited aunties and uncles and drove around.


I remember loving it, like it was a really great time even though there was absolutely nothing there…sort of nothing to do.

There used to be, over the Christmas holidays, travelling people would come through, like there'd be a little traveling circus or a little, I don't know, a magician or something and every night in the community hall they would have somebody, even if it was housie (because we used to just go and play housie) or somebody would get a projector and run a movie or something like that. Yeah, it was great fun.

I always remember there was this magic show and this guy actually levitated this woman. I’ve got no idea how he did it! He put his sword underneath her—like right underneath like that—and I was convinced she was absolutely truly levitating."

Mum is laughing as she recalls this memory and by the way she’s acting it out I can tell it’s still crystal clear for her. We both kinda believe in magic still too.


"Sometimes we stayed at Maketu because the family, Dad and his brothers, they all owned this bach. It used to be his parents—the one with the outhouse that was miiiiiiles away. NewDicks beach was just around the corner.


Mum was a bit frightened of Maketu because there's an absolutely fierce current that flows through there past the diving board which, I don't know if it's still there or not, but as kids for fun, we used to get in at one end and then just be wooshed down and you had to try and grab the diving board.


You had to be in the right place otherwise you’d end up kind of out at sea. The lifeguards just spent the whole time paddling. I've kind of imagined, when I think about them as them being on things like paddle boards but they can’t have been… but they just hung around that all the time and they’d just pick up people when they went past the diving board and put them back again.


But mom couldn't swim. So she was quite frightened of water and NewDicks beach, even though it was as dangerous, was just, you know, it was a surf beach and you could see what was happening a bit more and also it was… it was beautiful."


From left; whānau out on the rocks, Shelley with Elfriede and family at NewDicks, cuzzies in the river at Maketū.

"Sounds so fun. Do you still feel a special connection to that area?"

"Um, yeah, in a way but not… not in a big way. I don't really know it. I don't really know anyone down there anymore. We did use to know people but it's changed a little bit too. It's a bit more commercial now. So I don't… um if I still knew people there I think I'd feel more of a connection than I do."

"Ya know Casey was thinking of taking her whānau down to camp this summer and trying to dig up some old connections. How does that make you feel?"


Casey is my cousin, Mum's niece.


"Oh I think it’s great. Good on Casey. Yeah, I mean, I can't, I don't, even Wiremu doesn't know who's there anymore. The people I knew are long gone.


Possibly she should get hold of my cousin Jake whose um, he set up a kiwifruit farm down there for the locals to work and I think he was living there a little bit. He and his brother were living there a little bit on and off…"


"I think when we do go back it'll take a little bit of work to find our connection again, but when I’ve met people, even through mahi, who are from Te Whānau ā Apanui they’ve recognised the name. I think it might be about knowing our families were connected back in the day but kinda starting fresh again…"


"Yeah, yeah, it might be. I don't I don't know. I mean… Yeah for me it was… I, I don't know, I think times have changed."


"What were you gonna say?"


"Oh, you know, it's not all… You know, sometimes there's—it's not all love and you know, welcoming. Like, sometimes people don't like anything new or different. Or, you know, they won't accept you. And yeah, they don't always welcome you with open arms…"


"Are you scared of that for us kids—that we won't be accepted if we try?"


"No, I'm not scared. I think you've all got enough you know, sense of yourselves to be able to handle that if it happened. I think they're more likely to accept you guys because they don't know your parents and they've got no expectations of you. It was a bit different in my…. you know, I think there was some resentment that Dad hadn't married into the tribe."


"Hmm… yeah I see. Remember when we were talking about the possibility of doing a group kawe mate with the Rotorua rellies (a mourning ceremony where we would take our mate back to our original marae in wairua) and I said to you ‘Would you like me to take you back when you—’"


"No."


"You said yes at the time!"


"Did I?"


"Yeah, you definitely did."


"Oh well, I've changed my mind."


Mum laughs.


"You said you want to go everywhere but it would be nice if a little piece of you went back there too."


"Na, I don't want to go down there."


"So you don't. Ok now we've got that on tape."


Mum laughs again.


"Good. My spirit will go where it wants to go anyway. It’ll be a spirit."


"So if you think about, say Benny..."


Benny is my nephew and Mum's moko. I struggle for words a bit. I know this subject is a bit of an emotional minefield, both for Mum and myself.


"I'm trying to ask… do you care whether we keep the connection to our Māoritanga alive for the next generation? Or do you just think it’s kinda our own choice?"


"Um… it's really yeah… I mean… I think, obviously I think the connection should be kept. It's just that I don't… It's not going to be the connection I know so, you know, I… it's not really anything like that and it would be your choice, yeah.


For myself, I don't really care. But also, I know that it can't be broken. So it doesn't matter. I might meet someone in 10 years time or I could meet someone tomorrow from there and once you know that you have the same ground then that's it—you have a connection whether you want to or not, it's just there. It doesn't go away."


"It does kinda go away if you literally forget it though. Because like our generation are only learning that we have a ground, most of us are yet to put our feet in it."


"Well, it does, but for me it doesn't go away is what I'm saying. For you, you would have to establish it first. Yeah, yeah."


"And for Benny or my future children, if we don’t put work into finding and strengthening that connection, there could be nothing for them..."


"Yeah. I don't feel anything too bad about that. Like you know, I just don't."


"Fair enough."


I do really mean that when I say it. The fact that we've lost connection to Te Kaha is not on Mum at all. It's much much bigger than that. She's worked bloody hard to help us to be strong in our identity in other ways, perhaps ways that are safer to her.


Mum and kids. From left - Me (Lizzie Dunn), James McIntyre, Shelley Dunn, Jesse Dunn, Scott Dunn.


"Yeah. Unfortunate for you though. I mean, yeah, I know that you're on this journey and…"


"I think it’s really different for the different generations eh?"


"Yeah I think it’s really different."


"Yeah, I think it's different for you because you know you’ve always got that connection."


"Yeah."

"Whereas the generation under you is really hungry to reconnect because we didn’t have that."

"Yes… yes…"

It’s such a complicated topic.

I can feel Mum’s empathy for me, but I also feel her resistance to being ‘cast’ as someone who believes the identity of our family and descendents solely depends on their connection to our tribal lands. It’s yet another box for her.


"I know you had a completely different experience to me Mum. I know lots of Māori that have similar views as you, especially around your age."

"Yeah, and that doesn’t mean that we’re not Māori. We are. This is just the way that we are. We can be a different kind."

 

To Mum and all the different kinds—cheers to us.

Also cheers to the Anaru whānau; those who have gone before us and those who are yet to come, especially Nana, Ahah, Uncle Paul, Aunty Maggie, Aunty Jude (extra thanks for all the photos you've found and whakapapa you've compiled for us that I used for this Jude!), Uncle Ian, all the cuzzies, siblings, whanaunga and their tribes of tamariki. This is part of your story too.

Love y’all ake ake ake.

 

Recipient of a 2021 Contestable Fund Grant from Copyright Licensing New Zealand.


Ngā mihi nui to our partners for making this series possible!

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