Hana Burgess – Kaupapa

Hana Burgess – Kaupapa

Within te reo Māori, there exists insight into the way our tūpuna understood and navigated the world. Today, as mokopuna, we can look to our reo for guidance. Kaupapa is a commonly used concept with many interpretations, this is one take on this concept from a young Māori woman existing, resisting, and creating in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Kaupapa has been defined as a philosophy or a way of thinking. In exploring this concept recently over coffee with a mate, we had a kōrero about two of its parts – kau and papa. Kau can mean to emerge, and papa refers to Papatūānuku, Mother Earth, the source from which all living things come into being. In this sense our kaupapa, our philosophies, emerge from Papatūānuku.

To emerge from Papatūānuku is to have a sacred relationship with her, a relationship that intimately connects us all. The guidance this insight provides is that our kaupapa, and actions and expressions that flow from our kaupapa, must honour and respect the relationship we have with the natural world. Importantly, respecting our connection to Papatūānuku means respecting our mothers, and women as a whole. When our relationship with Papatūānuku is honoured, all living things flourish in harmony. Our kaupapa should meet this end.

As a society we are living in disharmony with Papatūānuku. This is seen in the current state of our environment. Our lands, our waters, and the creatures living and breathing within them are suffering. This suffering has come about because our sacred relationship with Papatūānuku has been damaged by our social, political and economic institutions. What’s more is that just as Papatūānuku is mistreated, so too are women. Women are not safe in our society; misogyny is rooted in our institutions, and manifests within our communities, our spaces, our art, and our intimate relationships. This is not what our tūpuna envisaged for their mokopuna.

This calls on us to consider our kaupapa, because at the moment neither our environment nor our women are flourishing. These patterns of mistreatment are perpetuated and maintained by the status quo. In turn, honouring our relationship with Papatūānuku requires resistance. If our kaupapa are not challenging the status quo, the message that we are sending is that we are complicit with the mistreatment of Papatūānuku, and by extension, women.

Our sacred connection to Papatūānuku was deeply woven into the philosophies of our tūpuna and we must follow suit as we face today’s social, economic, and political issues. All that we create – our music, art, events, and spaces – must consciously respect and uplift our environment and our women. Doing so allows us all to flourish because after all, it is from Papatūānuku that we emerge.

Hana Burgess
Ngāpuhi, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa