Pounamu toki

In Attire
Relationship: Child of im/migrant
The necklace described in my story
The necklace described in my story

Family: My mum, dad, brother and two dogs. To me, family has always been restricted to the confines of a nuclear family. Compared to friends who walk down the road to see a grandparent, aunt or uncle, I need to take a plane. Both of my parents immigrated to America around 25 years ago, separating them and thus myself from that grandparent who just lives down the street. With my Mum’s family being in England and my dad's family in New Zealand visits have been sparse and challenging. I adapted to this lifestyle for many years by associating family with just my parents and brother and consequently associating my heritage with my home: America. Following my 17th birthday these beliefs were challenged. From my māori grandfather I received a toki made of pounamu- the māori name for jade. The qualities of pounamu are strength, courage and determination, but for me it symbolizes much more: a connection to a family and land I have never been connected to before. The definition of family in māori culture—or Whānau—challenges that of my own. Whānau is everyone and everything you are related to, there is no difference between your brother or your fourth cousin or even a step father that looks after you, everyone is your Whānau. While wearing my toki I am reminded of my Whānau: my mum’s mum who lives in England, my dad’s mum in New Zealand, my grandad in Spain as well as my Māori grandfather not related by blood and lastly everyone that has loved and supported me. Even with the thousands of miles between us my toki has never made me feel closer. 

Place(s): New Zealand
Year: 1994

– J.S

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant