Ko Taranaki tōku maunga / My mountain is Taranaki
Ko Hangatahua tōku awa / My river is the Hangatahua
Ko Kurahaupo tōku waka / My canoe is the Kurahaupō
Ko Taranaki me Ngāti Pākehā tōku iwi / My tribe is the Taranaki Māori Nation of Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pākehā (non-Māori settler/colonial nations of England, Ireland, and Scotland; and I’ve been a Canadian citizen since 2008)
Ko Ngā Mahanga tōku hapu / My sub-tribe is the Ngā Mahanga
Ko Etahi Taputai me William Geary tōku tīpuna / My ancestors are Etahi Taputai and William Geary
David Geary taku ingoa / My name is David Geary
“Ua Tawa ! Ua Tawa! / “Purple Rain! Purple Rain!”
This pepeha is how I introduce myself on formal occasions. When asked by Chantal Bilodeau (co-founder of Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA)) to write about the intersection of Indigenous issues and the climate crisis in relation to theatre, my pepeha was my first thought. It’s a monologue Māori perform to embody our place in the world wherever we might go. We introduce our mountain and river first because they are the natural world we all come from. They are part of Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother. In Te Reo, the Māori language, the word for land and placenta are the same: whenua. Some words just don’t translate and the poetry is lost.
A disclaimer: I’m aware of the dangers of speaking for other Indigenous artists in writing this article. However, here goes. I feel that for many of us the land we belong to is where all our art comes from. The climate crisis is just the latest effect of colonialism disrupting our relationship to our land. How we respond to that depends on the individual.