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He mahi hou

Six weeks on a film set is a weird form of escapism.

You meet new people from different backgrounds and cultures (and I'm only talking about the New Zealanders), in a 'circus' like environment.

You have the Ring Master, you have the graceful trapeze artists dressed in sequin costumes, you have the diva, you have the clowns with the poodles that jump through hoops of fire, exciting, adored and popular.

But once the show is over, back in the caravans, you find out the clowns have drinking problems, the trapeze artist has run off with the Big Cat trainer and the Ring Master has pipe dreams of running some kind of 'off the grid commune' but he can't because he has two mortgages in West Auckland and he wants to put his daughters through private education.

Most of the time people were easy to get along with but some conversations I had with a few, in particular tauiwi who live in Te Wai Pounamu about 'who were here first' were exhausting.

What actually drives this antagonising conversation?

Do they too have a healthy obsession for the sci fi, conspiracy theories accompanied with buzzy UFO stories when they're stoned?

Nah, it was just an attempt to debunk Māori longer histories of occupation here on these Islands followed by the handbrake comments - the desire to invalidate the treaty, because 'we really need to move on' mojo.

Exit stage left.

I really enjoyed driving through places like Ōmarama, Lindis Pass through to Densy's Pass, arid and dry in August. Thin scales of ancient rock formations protrude out of the ground while the Main Divide, ever present in the background somewhere, hides behind low clouds.

The Mainlanders were so confused why I wouldn't go up to Queenstown for a 'ski'.

I explained how excited I was to visit the ancient sites, particularly in the limestone areas of South Canterbury and North Otago - It's here that you'll find some of our oldest signs of our human occupation. Rock art is the oldest surviving artistic medium with drawings starting to appear with the first wave of Pacific Islanders into the South Island between 600 and 1000 years ago. This is now known as the ‘Moa Hunter’ period, a time when almost all of the country was heavily forested and especially around where the rock drawings are now found. These forested areas harboured abundant food supplies including a number of species of the now extinct large Moa.

Due to deforestation of the East forests of the South Island, the areas formerly favoured for hunting and where many of the rock shelters occur, became barren and inhospitable. There was no longer any reason to visit those areas and they were largely abandoned for many centuries, along with the practice of rock art.

More than 95% of rock-art sites are on private land, and many more sites wait to be discovered. The paintings of extinct birds like Moa and Haast's Eagle appear to be drawn from live observations.

The Māori rock art has generally been found in natural shelters such as caves and under overhanging ledges. Māori would temporarily occupy these shelters while travelling and on food-gathering expeditions. Shelters would also be used on a semi-permanent basis during seasonal food-gathering rounds, when local resources from forest, wetland and open country were harvested.

Shelters as Art Galleries.

It was bang on dusk as we walked up into a limestone cave on a small cliff face.

The overhang felt like it was hugging us in the golden light as we turned out away from the cave to observe the scenery below.

I can only describe it as a cinematic experience. Being in the cave and looking out, made the walls and the overhang above our heads feel like you were in a cinema. The landscape opened up around us and the sky did a magic display of colours as the sun quickly slid behind the mountain ranges.

"But they couldn't have come here on seven waka, it just doesn't seem right and there were the white skinned red headed people from Europe or Egypt here first and they were eaten because "they" were.....

To which I reply - Yeah the lazy huas they just got the South Americans to drop the Kumara out here too. Cannibals. Can't trust em, am I right?

Sigh * Did these tauiwi feel comfortable with me because of my white exterior?

It fools people which I totally get, but it's the ones that stay shocked for the full conversation, I begin getting anxious. Exit stage right.

I'm sick of trying to have polite conversations with racist people about my new pursuits in Decolonising theory and Indigenous research. There were too many questions I shouldn't answer and too many questions I wouldn't answer.

What's your hapū? Whats your Iwi then?

I could tell she was hoping I was from Tauranga or Hauraki so she could remark on her researched knowledge on how the Moriori were eaten all up - that's why they are extinct like the Moa. Eaten all up. The lot of them.

I was surprised about the Moriori myth, which sadly, she was taught in school; she then might transfer to her children. A reminder that teaching real NZ history in schools is just that important.

The ripple effect would be so epic if we got it right aye.

I've been talking to my sister at length about the "too many examples" we bump into so we decided to call it what it is.

Cultural Gaslighting.

It's so reoccurring I need to check myself. Complacency would be the ultimate crime right now.

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