HUMANS OF ŌTAUTAHI: JAN
“As a girl, who left school at sixteen, I never dreamed of university education or in adulthood gaining a Ph.D. in chemistry.
I didn’t know about my Māori heritage until a few years ago. I had no idea. I was brought up entirely Pākehā but the first time I stepped onto a Marae to go to a tangi, I felt completely at home and that this is the way death should be dealt with. And then I felt compelled to learn the language a few years ago. Now I have an MA in Māori and Indigenous Studies.
My spoken Te Reo is not so good; there’s a lovely word in Māori, whakamā – it’s kind of a mixture of performance anxiety, embarrassment, shyness – when I try to have a conversation I get tongue-tied, but I can write a passable essay.
I love bright colours and everyone’s always commenting on how I never have beige or whatever on, but I’m only just gaining confidence now. I came from being a child who always felt overlooked, then a person under one domination or another and [it] took a long time to have the courage to be me.
Now people think I couldn’t ever have been that way, but a lot of the time I feel like I’m still like that underneath.”