I was born white. Around the age of two I was taken into a Maori family, my mother married into the family and I was formally adopted by them. My surname on my birth certificate was even changed to the Maori name Tipene. I was brought up Maori, and I am the namesake of my Maori grandfather.
When it comes to filling out forms I always tick both, Maori and NZ European. Yet my identity has been an issue for others. On the one hand I am regarded as a Maori author, an indigenous voice. Elders have pushed me into chairperson and secretary roles for whanau committee and marae. I have been pushed into being a speaker for my family, and last year I was even put into the position of Kaumatua in training for my marae.
On the other hand I have been accused on my own marae of being a white man who is trying to be Maori, and told that I have no business holding Maori positions, even though I never asked for any of it.
I don't enjoy marae politics.
In my book, White Moko, I tell of incidents of where I've been challenged for having the name Tipene. I guess these challenges are just a sign of the times, especially when there is so much cultural appropriation going on in the world.
I have been told that I'm too white, and then that my heart is too brown. Not Maori enough, not white enough. What I do know is that I am a Tipene. Tim Tipene.
First published on Facebook and Linkedin July 3rd, 2021.
Copyright© Tim Tipene, 2021.