A couple of weeks ago I discovered the blog of an author who goes by the name of “Bearer of Discomfort.” Rather than being discomforted by the encounter, however, I felt a profound sense of kinship, a feeling of having journeyed afar to a foreign land only to wind up home. That land is New Zealand (a place I have never been), and the home I found there is Tūrangawaewae.
Tūrangawaewae is a word with a deep and complex meaning in te reo Māori (the language of the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand). The purpose and philosophy of the Tūrangawaewae blog and the identify of the blogger, Bearer of Discomfort, are intimately and intricately connected to its definition:
Literally tūranga means ‘standing place’, and waewae ‘the feet’, thus it is most commonly translated as ‘a place to stand’, however it is a translation, like most translations across languages, that fails to capture its full meaning. Not only is tūrangawaewae an acknowledgement of the place one is connected to through whakapapa – our foundation, place in the world, or home; it also signifies a place where one feels empowered or connected. Feeling and being connected – to our earth mother Papatūānuku, and to ngā tāngata katoa (people), is critical if the point of your blog is to be, well – critical. To shake the tree of knowledge and see what bad apples fall down. Or in other words to bring uncertainty to the certain; to challenge the ideas that dominate. To be a ‘bearer of discomfort’.
My first encounter with the above passage sent my mind reeling through so many thoughts about why I am here in the wilderness of cyberspace, a rebel, a renegade, a maroon, howling and ranting in digital bits and bytes at the glow of the computer screen. I started this ceremony of dark old men—this ritual of drawing words like blood to be sacrificed on the altar of the blogosphere—six months ago. I selected the opening scene from the movie Quilombo for my inaugural entry to signal my intent to be a “bearer of discomfort” and to establish a “place to stand.” I didn’t know the word Tūrangawaewae then. But I understood instinctively the spirit it represents and the power it conveys to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Bearer of Discomfort writes passionately and perceptively about issues of social justice and human rights. She provides an outpost—an island of enchantment and empowerment in cyberspace—in which to develop and enhance the intellectual rigor and spiritual armament we need to free our minds and our bodies. Her most recent post on Tūrangawaewae concerns how Africa is presented and represented in the media. Earlier entries have dealt with the Occupy Wall Street Movement, negative imagery of black/brown males, and racism. In every instance she illuminates these topics with a keen sense of history and demonstrates a razor-like ability to strip the hide off bullshitters, hypocrites, bounders, and bigots. Every entry is a reminder that we all face the same foes in the fight for basic human rights worldwide. Every entry demands we get off our assess and leave our comfort zones to confront and contest those forces that divide and conquer us to keep us ignorant, dependent, and confined to the big plantation of neo-colonialism. Every entry reminds us who we are … and who we must become.