Sápmi, January 2020
Ka tau haa, ka whakatau haa te poo e tuu nei,
Ka tau haa, ka whakatau haa te huka e takato nei,
Ka tau ha, ka whakatau haa te whenua o Ngai Sámi,
Negative 30 degrees celsius in a big puffy jacket, thick pants and a beanie, the only time I thought I’d meet temperatures this cold is wearing white overalls and gumboots pushing carcasses around the chillers. Yet here I am, sitting on reindeer skins, in the frozen tundra watching Indigenous short films on a giant ice screen… I would try to pinch myself to wake up but my hands are wrapped three layers tight.
Sápmi, the Indigenous name for the lands of the Sámi people, was my home for two weeks. From the warming, spine tingling sound of joik’ing, that felt ever so spiritually familiar, to the bright contrasting kaakahu that clothed our tuakana from the Northa, each day felt like a movie. A journey of discovery! Learning about the tikanga and kawa of the lands, the creation story of the world from a Northern lens, the different kaitiaki of the land, and how the northern lights and the stars above are the biggest movie screen of all. But like any good film it wasn’t as easy as the main character had hoped (DUN DUN DUUUN!) With a 12 hour time difference and only 4 hours of sunlight a day, let’s just say it was hard to adjust! The workshop was a rollercoaster in itself and for me was the biggest challenge, working with four rangatahi that had little English was touuughhhhh! Heres me doing a young mihi in te reo Māori, you know the old “ka tangi te titi, ka tangi te kaka” sorta buzz, then I flip to english, whip out the old “Hello everyone, how are we going today?!?!?” and holly hacka, you could’ve heard a snowflake drop, as I quickly realised that most of the rangatahi would have had a better chance of mauri ora’ing my tihei then understanding fully what I was saying. With microphone batteries dying in seconds, cameras at the brink of freezing point, and the youth trying to understand my made up sign language it made for the best film workshop that I have ever been a part of! The struggles of the cold and the challenges of language enabled the connection of two Indigenous iwi from the opposite side of the world, enabling us Indigenous rangatahi tell our stories, through our lens!
I was asked if this was a once in a lifetime opportunity? At first my instant answer would obviously have been yes. Never have I ever thought I’d be traveling halfway around the world to experience, share and create Indigenous stories! But my answer was No, this was not once in a lifetime because I know I will return. Because.. The Tundra… it calls me…
I’ve been staring at the edge of the Tundra, for as long as I can remember, never really knowing why…
I thought it was fitting to end my story like this as many times the Saami youth would be speaking there reo while looking at me, I wouldn’t understand any word they said except for one… “Maui” … and then they would giggle!
Until we meet again my friends of Ngai Sámi,
Turou, turou, turou Hawaiki!