Jessica Thompson aka Maori Mermaid

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

Kia ora! I’m an artist and writer born in Ōtepoti. I’ve lived here for most of my life, went to kindergarten, primary school, highschool and university here, and travelled in between. I have always been a creative, dabbling between drawing, painting, poetry and short stories. I have a degree in English and Art History and completed my Masters Coursework last year!

What inspires you?

My heritage. My tīpuna. The many mana wāhine who I am lucky enough to be surrounded by. <3 The more I learn about my māori culture, the more inspired I become! 

What does connection to culture mean to you?

Connection to culture means getting to know yourself more spiritually and ethically. I believe that you come more into your own when learning about where you come from- even if it’s in small bits- a little te reo or a waiata- it’s enough to keep you moving. The point is to venture on the endless journey which will pass along to your decendants or your friends.

A challenge you have overcome & how did you manage it? 

Calling myself māori.

I grew up very proud of being māori until I hit high school where it became shameful and I didn’t look or act māori enough anyway. It took me years to feel confident enough to tell people “I AM māori” instead of mumbling it under my breath.

With this came the confidence to learn about my whakapapa and our history. It took a long time to get there, with many phone calls crying to my mum and a lot of art wrestling with the feelings of not being good enough. In order to overcome my shame, I had to ask myself why I was ashamed, why I didn’t feel enough, and I had to talk to other māori who felt the same. It’s a journey you can’t really do alone.

What is your favourite way to express yourself? 

Poetry! I’m not very structured, but language and the weaving of delicious words helps me move through difficult feelings. It honestly clarifies everything for me. 

What do you think the world needs more of? 

AROHA. Literally. Not just in a corny sense. It’s all we have. When everything fades and the world burns and the hoarders of wealth take that rocket ship to planet B, we are left with the truth, and I genuinely believe it is Aroha. The giving with no expectation of return. The selfless stretch of the heart in order to comfort and care for others. The breathing out of joy and the letting go of ego. We have it, but we could always do with more. 

If you could give your younger self any advice, what would you say?

Listen to your tīpuna. They tell you who you are. 

What is something powerful that you believe?

I believe that everyone is just a very tall child and no one is fully grown or complete. We die young and are always learning. 

Tell us something that has made you smile recently

I watched a video of a man rescuing a hedgehog from the ocean today. It gave me life.