Ko Hine-Nui-Te-Pō Te mana o te Tinana

Ashlea Gillon - IIRC20
Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Ko Hine-Nui-Te-Pō tētahi atua, tētahi tipuna hoki. Hine-Nui-Te-Pō is an ancestor, and one of the biggest, most influential, powerful Māori women in our history as tāngata whenua. Hine-Nui-Te-Pō is a kaitiaki, a guide and a guardian of us, particularly as we move into Te Pō and Rarohenga from Te Ao Mārama. However, often re-tellings of the narratives about her re-present and re-frame her in passive, deficit ways. Ani Mikaere (1999) states that “the one figure who could scarcely be characterized as passive was Hine-Nui-Te-Pō … faced with the irrefutable expression of female sexual power that Hine-Nui-Te-Pō posed, the redefiners of Māori cosmology recast her as evil and destructive… (p.41).

Her life as Hine-Tītama and Hine-Nui-Te-Pō illustrate a complex past of experiences and relationships that ultimately have restricted her agency, her autonomy, her ability to give informed consent, and her body sovereignty. Through her actions within these contexts, however, the ways in which she has enacted body sovereignty are demonstrated. This Kaupapa Māori doctoral research utilises Hine-Nui-Te-Pō as a foundation for an exploration into body sovereignty for fat Indigenous women, presenting a re-visualisation of fat Indigenous women, and what an Indigenous conceptualisation of body sovereignty and fatness looks like.

Re-presentations of fat Indigenous women are complex and often operate in ways that restrict access through multiple systems of oppression and biopower. The ways in which these systems re-define body sovereignty are intricate and often restrict access to opportunities to feel safe from (bodily) harm, and ability to make decisions about the body in ways that reinforce agency. As colonial intersecting systems of oppression, racism, sexism, and fatism limit access to wellness for Indigenous women. Within an Aotearoa context, the re-positioning of Indigenous women and Indigenous women’s bodies as (un)well and (un)(re)liable ultimately places Indigenous women in dual positions of being (over)/(under)surveilled. These biopolitical issues centre around power, deservedness, worthiness, classifications of dis-eased and liable bodies, and consent, and influence fat Indigenous women’s lives in ways that restrict access to opportunities, health resources, and ultimately having our body sovereignty recognised and acknowledged. Notions of sovereignty are not new phenomena for Indigenous peoples, however, this presentation suggests a shift in focus from self-love, self-acceptance, and body positivity, to one of body sovereignty, of mana tinana, and of accessibility.

This presentation discusses these Hine-Nui-Te-Pō’s story, issues of re-presentations of fat Indigenous bodies, the ways in which access becomes restricted through multiple systems of oppression and biopower, and the kōrero of fat Indigenous women.