Jennifer Dickerson, a self-proclaimed "Third Culture Kid" due to her unique upbringing, has discovered who she is through art.
"It's the community and the spirit of Māori that has made this possible. I don't believe anywhere else would have done that."
She refers to Maunga Kura Toi, the Bachelor of Māori Art which she has completed at Toimairangi in Heretaunga (Hastings). Jennifer came to toi partly to understand Māori more and their spirit, she says. The cultural depth and spirituality of Māori culture inspire Jennifer's work.
"Papatūānuku is giving us signs to help us. Rangi and Papa meet every morning, and we have a beautiful new day – every day!"
Jennifer is a third-generation child born in Kenya. She felt like she never knew her culture, and although being around the Kikuya and Masai people inspire her, she has spent the past 20 years trying to find her home. When her family moved to Aotearoa she had the opportunity to work alongside Māori people, which inspired her to study Anthropology. Eventually, her journey of self-discovery took her back to her maunga and awa in Kenya.
"I presume my father comes from maybe the English Gypsies, my mum... she would say she's Scottish. I never knew my grandparents. When my parents immigrated here, I wanted my children to know their grandparents because I always felt disconnected."
Jennifer has always done art, but she never studied it.
"I didn't think I was good enough, but I did postgraduate studies in photography and then went overseas to teach art for about 17 years. But I probably wasn't creating enough myself."
In Māori culture, Toi is used for many different purposes, like healing. This view resonates with Jennifer, who also believes in the healing powers of art. Toi, for Jennifer, is about what you can put of yourself on the canvas and how that can help the world or the community.
Jennifer's multicultural and worldly life experiences have shaped not just what she creates on the canvas but also who she is. She takes inspiration from the people of the land where she dwells. Her connection to Kenya, her Gypsy legacy, and her relationship with the Māori people have shaped her in unique ways, which she expresses in her artwork. Ultimately, her life experiences have helped her find herself.
“Māori are so beautifully spiritual. That's where I feel at home."