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Tamara has blonde hair and wears a green ponamu. She is smiling pictured in a field and has the Tino Rangatiratanga flag behind her.

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Tamara has blonde hair and wears a green ponamu. She is smiling pictured in a field and has the Tino Rangatiratanga flag behind her.

Tamara Grant: A Takiwātanga whakaaro on Toi Māori, Whakapapa, Mana and acknowledging Te Rā o Waitangi 2024

"You're capable to do what you need to do, it's just different," says Tamara Grant.

  • A Takiwātanga whakaaro on Toi Māori, Whakapapa, Mana and acknowledging Te Rā o Waitangi
    Tamara Grant
  • Ko Aotea te waka,
    Ko Ruapehu te maunga,
    Ko Whanganui te awa,
    Ko Uenuku te iwi,
    Ko Ngāti Tamakana te hapū,
    Ko Makaranui ki Raetihi te marae,
    Ko Te Piki Kotuku rāua ko Tukaiora āku tūpuna,
    Ko Ngāti Tama ki Whanganui-A-Tara me te Atihaunui a Pāpārangi me Tūwharetoa me Ngā Rauru me Ngāti Hikairo te taha hoki o tōku pāpā.
    Ko Tamara Grant ahau.

    Kia ora, my name is Tamara Grant, and I am the founder of XABilities. I [consider myself to be] an advocate for neurodiverse and Māori people in Aotearoa.

    Whakapapa - “A way to connect to who you are”

    I designed my tāmoko, it’s my pepeha, it’s representing my children [and] it’s something that my children one day can also get put on them [to feel] that close collective whānau that we have at home. It represents the energy coming in and out of us, and it’s an affirmation for protection as well. Because a traditional tāmoko is your story; it’s a way to connect to you - [to] who you are.

    I have a lot of detail in mine and people are like, “Oh you don’t want too much detail in a tattoo, because it will go blurry and stuff” but with a tāmoko, how blurry it gets, the way it moves, if there’s a scar on it, that’s the beauty of it because it’s your story. It’s connecting you more into yourself. It’s engraving your whakapapa, your tūpuna, who you are into you. To visually explain it? That’s hard for me. I would [end up] explaining it on an energetic level because that’s my language as someone who lives with takiwātanga (autism).

Image credit: Tamara Grant

  • A stencil of a tāmoko shows a hook with detailed patterns and carving shapes.
  • Toi Māori - “Translating Energetic Feelings through my cultural perspective”

    It’s beautiful being wahine Māori because I really learnt when I started doing Māori art that I could translate my energetic feelings into a physical form from my cultural perspective. I see that it’s all mathematical sacred geometry and very well planned out. Just like the tekoteko on a marae, it isn’t just there for art or the “prettiness.” It actually has great depth, meaning and mathematics behind it to be able to create that with that precision.

    What you get taught in school you [could] be like, “Oh sticks and mud and huts.” but that’s not the case, [Toi Māori] is actually of great significance to our land, to what Aotearoa is, and a lot of people can embrace that. You don’t have to be Māori to learn a little bit more about where you’re stepping and what you’re next steps forward [may be] in Aotearoa.

    Mana - “The power of knowing who you are”

    I feel one of the things that gets lost is people actually knowing their history and with [terms like] “plastic māori” there can be feelings of being scared to celebrate it because of the history behind it. [Historically] if you spoke [Te Reo Māori] at school, you got shut down. Even when I went to school, because I am “fair-skinned Māori”, I got bullied. So there [can be] a lot of racial and hardships in our past and because [historically] the Treaty [has] not been honoured that makes it hard [for some] to embrace being Māori in general.

    We’re a culture that has spent and dedicated each generation of our lives mastering what the stars and land do in Aotearoa. We cultivated our whole culture around this and understanding that importance really gives an appreciation not just to Māori, but [all of] the land and environmental aspects that come with that. If we don’t appreciate where we are in all aspects of sky and land we lose a part of our humanity as [both] Māori [and] “non-māori”.

    I feel like I would want to change that for my children, my whānau, our whole collective, just for them to be able to really embrace who they are and learn the significance of generations of knowledge about the land of Aotearoa - New Zealand.

  • Te Rā o Waitangi 2024 - “The importance of progress in honouring the treaty”

    I celebrate Matariki as a new year for Māori and the land as Aotearoa [because with] the stars, the environment etcetera -  it just makes sense. I don’t usually “celebrate” Waitangi because of the complications and politics. I usually view it like, “Oh okay it’s just another day.” - just like how I don’t celebrate Auckland Anniversary either. [However] this year I will be “celebrating” parts of [Waitangi]. There has been [more] inclusion over the last few years, and [to see] how much te reo has been embraced, I feel like this is something to celebrate. I really want to educate the importance of the progress we’ve made so far with honouring the treaty.

    With my autism, I find I struggle with large events especially with my children. I am not going to the festivities of Waitangi [this year], but I did go up last week [a week earlier than Waitangi Day]. I took my son to make sure I gave him some education about the parts of our history that makes us who we are today. I want to be in my best performance, so I did the tour with him as well and he had a little earpiece in his ear listening to all of the history. In that tour I had to make sure I stood at the back to make sure that I was not going to get sensory overload during that process. [It was] good to do it on a day that not many people [were] there as it also [gave] me the opportunity to really be present with my son while [he is learning] about his history.  

    The Waitangi staff were quite inclusive in the way of having that Māori cultural background [while] respecting you as who you are and not trying to put a label [on you]. If I came in with a stutter, or with my little bit of “non-verbalness”, or trying to explain things with my hands. There wasn’t a side eye or a, “Oh what’s this girl doing?”. It was just like, “Oh no that’s all good.” I came late and because time blindness is horrible I was like, “Oh can I just reschedule because I’m late, my son needs lunch… etc. oh my gosh!” and they were like, “Yeah nah that’s all good, we’ll do it like this and you just need to do this.” They treated me with respect and I think that everyone could take a little bit of that into their own lives - [then] life overall would be quite nice.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

  • A green field with lots of trees by a body of water. A town and a Māori canoe is in the background
  • On being “Takiwātanga”

    Living with takiwātanga, which is te reo [Māori] for autism, I find it took me a while to understand my whānau’s perspective on it. They were always like, “Nah, I don’t get the diagnosis, no you don’t want that, no we don't do that here, no you’re you… blah blah blah.” At first this made me feel very rejected but then I finally turned around and was like, “Oh you mean that I am me and that doesn’t change your view of me if I have a disability? If I have differences that doesn’t change who I am as a person and how you’re going to treat me? You still expect me to have manners and even  though it’s different capabilities, I’m not incapable, I’m just different?”

    That’s their perspective on takiwātanga and it took me a long time to learn, especially because my whānau doesn’t explain it. They won’t sit there and be like okay this is what we need. They’ll sit there and be like nah, she’ll get it one day - like on the couch conversations. I really loved that perspective and I take that in my advocating on teaching how important it is to that view and how we should as a collective have that view on everyone whether takiwātanga, “able-bodied” or not.

    “You’re capable to do what you need to do, it’s just different.”