Last weekend I was spending some time with two older ladies who I had never met before. First we visited the Thames Historical Museum which is one of those fun places full of old bits and pieces that people have donated and that volunteers curated. (Thames was a lively gold mining and gum digging village about 120 years ago, now its mostly a sleepy holiday destination.) 99% of the museum is concerned with 120 years of European settlement. 1% represents the previous 400 years of Maori life there. Anyway, I was looking at the old movie posters when I overheard my companions looking at the token Maori display-shelf and poster on the other side of the room.
"Maoris (sic) used to be such good gardeners"
"Yes, they'd all go out and do their little bit together, wouldn't they?"
"Such a shame now isn't it?"
"They just don't bother any more."
"Oooh, is that an old sewing machine?"
I seethed and writhed but felt I'd missed my chance to interrupt their unabashed racist stereotyping.
Later in the afternoon we were strolling down a country road, admiring a large, immaculately maintained, imaginatively planned, garden including the tidiest orchard I've ever seen, many special flowers and trees that my old ladies admired and a huge fortified vegetable garden. As we strolled back for a second look, the gardener appeared from behind a tree where she was relaxing in her beautiful creation and we all offered effusive and sincere compliments. I can't tell you how I pleased I was to see she was unmistakably Maori.