top of page

Season 1 Episode 3.5

What Te Whētu Did - Justice & Stewardship

We remember Te Whetu Evening Star Walker ( 1946 - 2013) Maori woman of the Te-Aitanga-a-Māhaki tribe and human right advocate.


"Star Walker worked for years as a contractor between major horticultural and viticultural businesses in the region of Tairawhiti and her friends and family. She was rarely, if ever, protected; often she was obliged to pay people in cash directly from her home. She fought for her people, she brought her son home to join her in the fight, and she eventually created a system which within her small world, made a difference. 


“He aha te mea nui o te ao, he tangata he tangata he tangata” - What is the most important thing in the world, it is the people, the people.” "


- Nathan Ratapu, her grandson.


Te-Aitanga-a-Māhaki Website




Nathan [00:00:00]:

The camaraderie of experiences of alcohol can often unlock actually good, positive discussions and and potentially create friendship. It can be it can be a lubricant towards positive social engagement, but it is absolutely never an excuse for violence, for discrimination, for anything that is actually causing another person around you harm. Never.

Lucie [00:00:36]:

This is what we do. A show about how we, you and me, can have a positive impact on the world, live with integrity, and embrace the complex questions of our time without losing neither ourselves, our minds, nor our hope in the process. My name is Lucie Camara and I'm your host. Let's begin. You were just telling me that you had an event at the store.

Nathan [00:01:31]:

Yes. So we organize events with different authors on a regular basis. And it's really our way to speak to both sides of the project, to the wine side, in the fact that we're inviting people into the space, offering them a chance to come into a wine shop, which, depending on their background, their interests, may not be something that they're even accustomed to. And so we had an event for Franck Lao for his new book, and it was fantastic because his Maison Dichon, his publishing house, reached out to us to do the event he's published by JC. Lattes, which is a division of Hashet, and it's quite a big publishing house. I was actually really surprised when they reached out that it was them that was publishing the book, just because, I mean, it's a topic that obviously is still extremely controversial in France. But the approach of the book, I think, is kind of representative of the fact that he wants to take this project that's been primarily a social media account up until this point, kind of to a more broader public. It's quite a substantial book and it examines his own life, his own history and his family's history of enduring racism in France.

Nathan [00:03:03]:

He is a first generation immigrant, and so his experience trying to reconcile the reality of growing up in France, growing up in a situation in which his parents are Laotian, and they spoke a form of Chinese Laotian at home, but he never picked it up. He always spoke French. He always saw himself as French until the moment in time in school that he was clearly identified by his friends as not being so, and examining the ways in which you create these hierarchies and sort of boundaries of shame with respect to your racial origin in a place like France, where assimilation is so much the advocated game, but is absolutely never the reality. And so it was really incredible to have Franck there to talk about the subject, because we also was the first event that we'd had with a French author of Asian Racial origins at the shop. And it's a community that we would love to have also more events with and have more conversations with, examining a lot of these questions of decolonization, but also a number of intersecting questions in terms of feminism, in terms of identity, and the ways in know those interact with that community in France. And so it was really amazing to have a number of people who were there, who have created their own associations, their own organizations, who were meeting for the first time in many cases in the space around Franck's book and being like, you like, oh my gosh, you're doing this amazing thing over here. You really should come and talk to our team who's doing this stuff over. Like we have these sort of dinners where we talk about our experiences, dealing with these kinds of things, how we're talking about this to our kids or to our students or to our coworkers.

Nathan [00:05:12]:

And it was a really just extremely affirming space. And Franck is a very I mean, he was anonymous for a really long time and he's a very quiet person, but he had such a sort of intimate touch with every single person who wanted to talk to him about the book and their own experiences. When I went back to the cave yesterday, you feel the vibration of the amount of love, the amount of emotion, obviously the amount of trauma that was shared and sort of put into examination in that space. But the ways in which community can really help to assange those problems, them, to really help confront them.

Lucie [00:06:03]:

That's so amazing to hear and so powerful. And this is not usually how I start my conversations and my podcast, and usually I have a more basic approach of like, introduce yourself, what do you do? Where are you from? Whatever. But I quite like actually that we started with this because I would love to coming from this event, from this recalling especially that it's so fresh, it was two days ago. If you could talk a little bit about how this event came about, like how it resonated with you and your story, how it found its purpose in your store. Because I feel like from the little I know of you and of your store RerengaWines, it sounds like this is the vision for the store. So could you from this standpoint, introduce our listeners to what you do and how this came?


Nathan [00:07:21]:

So you know, Franck's book and I don't know if I said the name of it, but it's called Décolonisons-Nous, Decolonize Ourselves. And when the publishing house first reached out about it. I've been following the account for a while because this question of decolonizing ourselves has always been something that has been important to myself as someone of Maori origin and someone of Maori origin who has led a life that's been very disconnected in some ways to my place of origin, the place of origin of my people. I was born in the United States. I grew up a good amount of my adolescence in my teenage years in New Zealand Aotearoa, but then lived in the United States for another ten years and then have been in France for four years. And growing up I saw myself as Maori but I saw myself as with an asterisk right. I saw myself as Maori who didn't want to be like other Maori and who wanted to get away from New Zealand Aotearoa when I was young to go do something else.

Lucie [00:08:41]:

What does that mean? And what did that look like in your mind? What in your mind growing up was the idea of this is a Maori man and I'm not that. And what is it that you wanted to get away from if you don't mind me asking?


Nathan [00:09:00]:

No, it's totally okay. I think it's a shared kind of shame situation between my father and I and it's something that we both have been really working through for a long time. But my father, when he was 18, he left Tera Whiti, our hometown for the United States and he left and didn't come back until he brought us back as kids and that was about 15 years. And he really left with this idea that, oh, I have this chance to get out of the muck I have a chance to get out of this situation in which you internalize this notion that, oh, we as Maori. Are just not worth know the system is so much to do with why Maori have so few economic and social advantages in New Zealand Aotearoa and particularly for my father in the 1980s when really there was no value on the national level. To being Maori, to speaking Maori, to having these cultural artifacts, having this cultural knowledge of our own country. And so often this is the case with many indigenous people and colonized countries.

Nathan [00:10:22]:

The statistics were such that we did so much worse in schools, we had so few job opportunities. We were seen with these particular lenses of oh we're lazy, oh we're not good workers, oh we're unhealthy. And so as a know when he got to the United States and he was not seen in that same way because people did not know who Maori people were particularly at that time period, he saw this chance to oh, completely transform himself. And where Maori was something that would be a bit of a token, but at the same time, not something held against him. And for me, a generation later I grew up in a different New Zealand Aotearoa at a time where effectively Maori culture had begun to see a cultural renaissance in the nation and that there were more and more people learning the language. There was more cultural mobility for Maori people and also a sense of real pride that was coming back amongst Maori people in terms of really putting forward the fact that we were Maori and creating Maori political movements. And I was involved in a lot of this, I really wanted to learn about this when I was young and my parents encouraged me to learn Te reo Maori and to really immerse myself in these things. But because I grew up so I speak some of know, it's also a point of real shame.


Nathan [00:12:04]:

For start, I had to learn it when I was in school, and at that time too, which is not that long ago, but a lot of things have changed in the last 15 years. But you could learn it. But again, it was very sort of tokenized. It was like, oh, here's a language you can learn amongst five other languages at school. And it doesn't matter that this is perhaps the more pertinent language because this is the language of the indigenous people of this country. It was sort of just like, oh, you take this, sure, if you're interested. And at that time too, you would see a sprinkling of the language in popular culture.

Lucie [00:12:44]:

But you didn't grow up speaking it.

Nathan [00:12:46]:

I didn't grow up speaking it, no. And it was the same thing. And it's a story that's very similar with the story that Franck tells in his my father didn't speak it. My father didn't grow up speaking it. My grandmother was fluent in it. But this isn't something we knew until I was maybe 15. My dad had no idea that his own mother was fluent in Te reo maori because she refused to speak it to him, because she wanted him to become fully assimilated in New Zealand culture, which was ostensibly white culture, which was white European culture.

Lucie [00:13:26]:

That's a pretty relatable story, I think, for a lot of immigrant kids, kids of immigrant, either immigrant or indigenous people with this kind of power dynamic, with another language, another colonized or a language of power. I know my mother had almost the same word for word. She realized that my mother's father was Chinese, but in the French Caribbean. And until her forty s, I think I remember when my mother realized that her dad was fluent in it's. It's I always find it funny how no matter if it's on the other, like literally the further side of the planet, which is New Zealand Aotearoa and French Guyana, or north of Sweden Samì population, there's so many similar stories and parallel stories.

Nathan [00:14:37]:

I mean, this is the story of colonialism period, right? It's the suppression, it's the repression of cultural identity, of history, of what we call in Te reo Maori, Tanga, these gifts of your people, right? And the gift of language, which is such a key anchoring point for so many people with their cultural identity and with the story of the past. And so if you don't have that link, it can really unroute you. And so when I moved away from New Zealand, Aotearoa, when I was going to university, not having actually that link to language and obviously not having other Maori people around me really kind of led me to sort of move away in a sense. It wasn't a disinterest because it always is a part of me. But it was very easy to move into circles in which I would not be necessarily perceived as Maori and to, on a deeper level buy into that shame buy into that colonialist shame of well, it's a thing, but I don't have to make it so much of a thing of my personality if I makes other people uncomfortable thinking about something else that Franck talks about in the book, which is sort of these hierarchies of racial privilege. And the ways in which colonization really also tries to pit different colonized people against one another to create this notion of, well, you all want to be us, the civilize ed people, the colons, who you'll never be. But if we are the image of the ideal, then you amongst yourself can have these battles of cultural difference and things like that. And that allows the white dominant culture to remain elevated and away from the fray.


Nathan [00:16:57]:

And that's still a problem within Aoteoroa today. My parents. And this kind of is also a link to bigger question about how the wine shop came about and how I also decided to really open up with this vision of being a distinctly decolonist project and also a project that is just trying to address the multiplicity of social issues that are interconnected with agriculture and winemaking. But when I grew up, most of my dad's family were agricultural laborers, and they worked on the vines, and they worked in horticulture all year round, and they were deeply exploited. They were exploited by the agricultural industry who saw them as basically cattle and saw them as people whom there was no need to have any form of respect with contracts or with even just proper labor conditions. And eventually laws changed to ostensibly protect Maori laborers and protect contractual labor in the agricultural industry, but only for.


Lucie [00:18:20]:

The help of a certain woman, if I'm not mistaken.


Nathan [00:18:24]:

Totally with the help of Jacinda Ardern and help of... is that who you're thinking about? Or who are you talking about?


Lucie [00:18:30]:

I was thinking about your grandmother.


Nathan [00:18:32]:

Oh, my grandmother as well! Yes, my grandmother was we ended up actually moving back to my hometown of Tarafiti because my grandmother ran basically as an intermediary between these companies and sensibly her family and friends. And she said, we need some form of structure here to make sure that people are actually getting paid and that there's even a record of the label labor that you're doing so that you can get benefits and compensation and this labor can actually be traced. But it was extremely overwhelming for her, and it put her in a real space of precarity because these are things that should be handhold by actual administrative bodies or of course, by the people themselves who are running these businesses and making the money off the bodies of Indigenous people.


Lucie [00:19:26]:

Did she ever get recognition for her work?


Nathan [00:19:28]:

She never got recognition for her work, no.

Lucie [00:19:28]:

Is she alive? Or did she pass away?

Nathan [00:19:34]:

No, she passed away. And it's a really tragic story of also pure racism as well. She had a heart condition and she had a pacemaker and when she was just 60 and she was, I mean, apart from the pacemaker, she was in actually very good heAotearoah and she had left working in the fields and she started doing other things with no knife. And one day she sensed that there was something wrong with her pacemaker. She was having heart palpitations. She went to the hospital and the hospital told her flat outright, you're making this up, we think that you're fine. They didn't do any tests on her and there's records of this. She came in, I do explain that she was like, I'm feeling something weird.

Nathan [00:19:33]:

And they just took for granted that she was this older Maori woman who didn't understand science, didn't understand her own health So they sent her away. She came back a second time about three or 4 hours later and she was really seeing like, something is wrong, like either this machine is not working or something's going on with myself. They tested the machine, they said, no, you're fine. And again refused to believe that she was actually experiencing any of the symptoms that she was experiencing. And they told her just to go home and then she passed out. She went into shock. And by the time that she got to the hospital, she passed away.

Nathan [00:21:20]:

And my father tried to, he was so deeply angry and he was trying to understand this forever. And the hospital basically then turned around and said, oh, well, Maori woman of her age with heart conditions, it's more likely that she's not going to survive a heart attack or things like that.

Lucie [00:21:48]:

It was preventable. I'm so sorry.

Nathan [00:21:18]:

It was totally preventable. But this is the horrible things that are still anchored and obviously this happens to so many women of color who are just, they're not around the world, right, who are in situations in which white doctors don't believe that they are experiencing pain and don't understand it. And these are often the intersectional realities, too, for when we're talking about maternity, when we're talking about women's health crises in general, you know, the legacy of my grandmother on what she she did to really fight for the rights of agricultural laborers. You know I wish I could say that I'd really lived on in a way and and I think that in a sense for Maori people there was this moment where contracts were respected the minimum wage was lifted and that was put in line with agricultural labor because there was also a lower wage course for agricultural labor than there was for other forms of commercial. Then, you know, basically farmers of large agriculture industries just started bringing over agricultural laborers coming from other parts of the Pacific whose home countries had lower minimum wages that could be respected. When they came over here, obviously there's always that conversation and Franck talks about it as well. The grateful minority, the the marginalized people who start to have some simulcrum of power or agency who are then not considered to be grateful about what they have. And so then it just becomes now a situation in which Maori people are put into direct competition with people who are our literal brethren, who are Polynesian brothers and sisters in other places, who we should be fighting together.

Nathan [00:24:13]:

With against colonization and are just now being who are now being seen by plenty of Maori people in an unfortunate but understandable way as just like people who are beating them to basically making a buck. When I went to university, I really wanted to study political science either through potentially becoming a journalist at the other end of it or in some ways trying to be politically active in my community, a community organizer or working in politics. And when I was still in Tera Whiti, you know, I got involved with the Maori party which is now called Te Pati, sort of at its nascent stage. And it was a sort of Maori political movement that was trying to have representation in parliament for Maori people but with Maori people whose specific agenda was addressing, decolonization and elevating Maori concerns. I wanted to understand also what were the origins of so many of these conflicts outside of just questions of racism, right? Like what are the economic factors that reinforce these forms of racism that exist in the United States but also obviously everywhere and what are also the social factors that are involved in these things. Became interested in wine in a context in which it actually seemed like a form of social mobility in a way, right? I mean, oftentimes wine and the things that come with wine, right? The social occasions that come with wine, the environments in which you can consume wine, learn about wine, offer you a form of certain social access. I was desperate for a new form of education after getting tired with the work that I was doing on a different career. And I fell in love with the storytelling aspect of wine.


Nathan [00:24:13]:

There was an aspect of Waiata, of Kōrero, of story, of speech that is present in winemaking and wine sales. It's very seductive and it's always this question of how can we put a little bit of sweetness into the medicine of getting people to understand questions of privilege and racism and discrimination. I started thinking about wine through these classes that I started taking and then eventually winemakers that I was meeting through this lens of actual storytelling and through this lens of the intersection of so many of the questions that were really important to me about history, about society, about tradition, about food systems, and also questions of aesthetic pleasure. Right? And how we can create environments in which potentially complex questions can be rendered a little bit more easy to understand or to discuss and so I just became really seduced by this, and I started to read more about it. I started to go visit more of these people. And eventually I found my way to natural wine, which is the particular kind of kind of wine and that I sell and that I really spend my time around, because it's to kind of sort of explain it very quickly and briefly for people who've never had natural wine or still have questions about it. The idea with natural wine is that it's, of course, dealing with agriculture and viticulture that is either organic or something that is really respecting the earth for the earth's sake. And then in the cellar, it's allowing all of that organic material that you have really carefully brought into existence to express itself in the most authentic and transparent way possible.


Nathan [00:29:03]:

Wine, of course, doesn't make itself. There is still human hands that are there. But the idea is to intervene as little as possible and to let things like the yeast that's in the air naturally ferment the wine, to let the evolution of the wine continue as it should and then to eventually do as little as possible when you're putting the wine into bottle to really let that transformation also become a part of the wine story. And as a result, it's a product that is very much the sum of everything that's happened in the year, the history of this place, the history of these fines themselves and also the person, the people who are part. Of that story. People who actually shepherded those vines and those grapes to completion in the wine, and the people who make up the culture surrounding that place as well, who have a big influence on why those vines are planted, how that earth was taken care of, and the things that people look for in those flavor profiles that are in the resulting wine. I thought, wow, this product really is a story at so much of the circumstances of a place and of the beauty and of the trauma of things that are happening and the people who are present for that. And I really wanted to jump into that space and learn how I could also help tell those stories to people and make the consumption of something that had really had adverse effects on my family mean something else or have or have a greater capacity to mean something else to other people.


Lucie [00:30:58]:

It's beautiful. It almost makes me feel like I mean, I've been around natural wine for years and drinking it and loving it because I worked in hospitality, I worked in bars, and I worked in natural wine bars, and I've never heard anyone actually talk about it that way. It almost makes me think of it as a poem. A bottle itself can be it's a work of poetry in some ways. It's a lot of metaphors, it's a lot of cultural significance. It's beautiful.


Nathan [00:31:33]:

It can be a really beautiful thing. And I think that with time, as I got more and more interested in natural wine, the thing that then ended up happening and the work that I then had to actually do on myself as I started working in natural wine. And eventually, when I moved to France four years ago with my partner, I had to realize that it's very easy to become almost entirely fixed on that beauty. Right. And to in some ways sublimate the politics of that that are inherent to the poetry inherited to that narrative into aesthetics and then in some ways, dismiss it, dismiss the politics as being a distracting force to being able to appreciate the beauty.


Lucie [00:29:01]:

I was very interested when I heard you I heard you talk about that on our common friend Mathilde's podcast, where you were talking about, I think the was there a trial with an Italian winemaker, maybe with very cheap prices, and it turned out like the manpower that had been behind this beautiful, great cheap bottles had been abusive. And again, there's very few people who talk about this.


Nathan [00:33:21]:

Oh, absolutely. I would hesitate to call it like a well publicized story because sadly, I mean, it's really certain circles in which these things are talked about. They're not brought to a wider republic. But yeah, that was a perfect example of someone who really identified as this figure of natural wine a very sort of quirky, exciting person who had these really fun labels. And their wines were these sort of neo fluorescent colors and they were also a really accessible price point, which is a démarche that is extremely important as well to rendering something like natural wine accessible to outer public and getting people to think about the questions proposed by natural wine is this price accessibility? This story was extremely seductive until we realized that, oh, when you have 80 vines and your prices are so low and supposedly all of your grapes are harvested by hand, in which case they were, but hands that were very poorly paid. And it forces you to think about what is part of this.


Lucie [00:34:47]:

Yeah. Whose are the lives that are impacted by who's not getting paid there? Like, where is the money not going? Actually, that's always the tension of intersectional sustainability, which is a concept that I'm really passionate about because it demands balance always because you don't want these stories and this beautiful product and the fruit of this labor to become a luxury item. But at the same time, you want people to be paid fairly because that's just the system we're working with. It's capitalism. So there's offer and demand. But yeah, I'm really interested in how we can respect both the soil, what comes out of it, the communities around it, the workers, the consumers in a beautiful, positive way, and what are the compromises that have to be made for it to be sustainable, for it to last longer, for it to touch as many lives as possible? And I think that's also what I'm really trying to explore with this podcast and this project and with the people I talk to. Because with your background, your story, what you do, the products you work with, but also just the idea of having a business and also having this, like having a wine store and a radical bookstore, because it is a radical bookstore, I guess. And how all of this element can live interconnected and how just the proximity of these stories highlight the interconnection there.


Lucie [00:36:51]:

I think it's fascinating, and I would love to hear your experience and challenges, but also the opportunities you've been seeing and how it's been working out.


Nathan [00:37:04]:

I mean, you've explained the mission so beautifully. Like, I really could not explain it myself. That is exactly the purpose of Rerenga. And its mission is really this intersectional sustainability in which you are addressing all of the stakeholders who are present and their various needs and the differences there at once. And you're trying to recognize that all of those people are interconnected, even if they don't seem like they're all in the same situation, right? The question of the people who are being exploited in the labor environment. The questions of the people who are consuming products that come from an earth that has been polluted and has been mistreated and then the consumers who are also taking part in this artisanal product that comes from all of that care that attentivity that well meaning sort of action. Who are those people? And how do we make sure that those people represent the diversity of the people who've made the product or the diversity that is missing in that production process? And those two things are necessary at the same time. I think that for me, when I thinking about opening the shop, this is a very sort of palpable conversation in the natural wine space in the United States right now, where this question of how do we decolonize wine? And how do we decolonize wine? Not only from the question of how do we ensure safe labor conditions for the people who are working the fields and who are oftentimes migrant laborers coming into situations of precarity to pick Grapes.


Nathan [00:39:11]:

But also, how do we decolonize the space of who is making wine, who has been excluded from the means of production of wine for generations and generations, and also in terms of who's representing that wine on the other side of things, who has access to being a Sommelier, to being a caviste? And all of these things have led to incredible projects. Wine collectives that are extremely radical in having manifestos about how they're going to entreat. They're going to treat everyone who's involved in the project and talking about going back to working with polyculture and working with indigenous grapes and really resisting all forms of compromise with big agro and with chemical companies. And all of that, I thought, was. Really, really great. But my biggest issue with it was that the product at the end of it was often $50. You go as a consumer, I mean, at that price point, frankly, the large majority of people who go into a wine shop are going to go, oh, well, I'm really excited by this story that you're telling me about all of this. This is exactly what the kinds of things if you are someone who is like us and your listeners who are really interested in these questions of sustainability and intersectionality, the thing I want to support, I don't have the money for that, so oh, that sucks.


Nathan [00:41:00]:

I can't actually afford to be involved in these things that are extremely interesting to me, so I guess I'm just going to buy my $15 bottle of whatever wine. The reality is that it's hard to also I mean, the means of production are the means of production, right? Thinking about all these questions and really moving into these spaces in which in our current reality, right, where we're, for the most part, operating independently to any kind of government subsidies or wider forces that could potentially help us to bring these costs down and render these things more accessible. We're acting as the exception, right? We're choosing to put in this effort and things, and you want to tell people that their labor is worth something. It's again, environmentalism sustainability becomes a value, you know, becomes a value of the enlightened, the rich, and it enters into this sort of, like, rhetoric, again, that is extremely hierarchical and extremely colonialist.


Nathan [00:42:51]:

And so in thinking about opening my shop, I said, there has to be a way in which the shop itself addresses that problematic, right? I am a natural wine shop. I'm not a generalist store, and I want to try to find things that are going to be at price point that represent all of the important questions and values that we've talked about and that are also as experiences, as poetic and beautiful as anything else. But that can be at an entry level price point. Now, mind you, that entry level price point, when you put in all of those factors, is always going to be higher than gross industrial farming. But I said, okay, if we want to create a space where people feel comfortable at least having the questions and addressing, okay, I'm used to going to a supermarket, and this bottle of wine is €5, and that does me fine. Why should I spend a bit more money to invest in this thing? I said, okay, well, I could just talk to you about why I think it's good, but why not also have the voices of so many people who are addressing these questions and are really interrogating the ways in which they are relevant to your life, even outside of just your choice about a wine bottle. Right. And so there's that aspect, right.


Nathan [00:44:34]:

A direct way of addressing and interrogating those questions through different lenses that other people might be able to understand based on their backgrounds, what they do, what they're interested in. But there's also a question of representation, right? And so for me, that is an extraordinarily important part of any commercial business is just to say that you as the consumer want to feel represented in the space that you're walking into, right. And in the products that you're consuming. And wine is natural. Wine is too an extraordinarily white male place and for the most part, like heterosexual space. And the question that so many white people ask me is, well, oh well, what does that matter? How does that taste different in the wine? What concern is it to a person of color that they're drinking a bottle of wine made by a white person? You know what I mean? They're going to drink it with their friends and their own environment and their own circumstance. And this is the presentation, right? This is the thing. Is that the reason why there is a reason why most of this wine is made by white people.


Nathan [00:42:48]:

It's not just because of some... that's just how it is.


Lucie [00:46:00]:

Not just because people of color are not interested in wine. Exactly.


Nathan [00:46:06]:

But this is the insane thing that ends up just, like polluting people's brains with time in a post colonialist space is this notion that as we get further distance from the origin of evil, from the actual colonialization itself, or from the enslavement of people, we just start ingraining these ideas that, oh, yeah, people of color just don't drink wine. Or people of color, they just aren't interested in this kind of literature or they're just not interested in they don't.


Lucie [00:46:00]:

They don't have the palette for it.

Nathan [00:46:40]:

Yeah, exactly. Right. Or like and it's even coming to the situation of like, oh, yeah, organics, like so impossible to open the Organic store in the banlieue because they won't want to buy those products. And you're just like, how are you not putting these things together? Because in some cases it is actually quite simple. But in the situation, it's just like having the means to start a project of wine is already extraordinarily difficult. And if you are not coming from someone who has who's coming from a landowner or coming from someone who has the economic advantage to be able to take time to go to a school, for winemaking, it's privilege. It's privilege. That does not necessarily mean that these people cannot be sort of honest like paysan in the sense...


Lucie [00:47:41]:

we all have our privileges. The most honest paysan is still I mean, privilege doesn't add or remove value in itself.


Nathan [00:47:53]:

Exactly. And so I tell people that it's an extraordinarily difficult space to enter into. Know, winemaking is still very much connected to this notion of tradition in France. And those questions are so deeply connected to the questions of racism and who has the right to use our land and to build something that represents France that could be sold in the internal, but also in the international marketplace. And so it will be unless we are actually drawing attention to those questions of saying, okay, well, why aren't there more and more people of color in an already diverse country like France, but an increasingly diverse country like France, and in a country in which the consumers of wine and natural wine are becoming increasingly more and more diverse? Why are we not seeing that diversity happening in winemaking schools, in agricultural programs, in the people who are leaving urban spaces to go buy land and start making wine? Are we not seeing that? I mean, why are we not seeing more women doing it, period? Why are we not seeing queer people moving to?


Lucie [00:49:23]:

Aren't we seeing more women, at least? I feel like or maybe it's just in my circles and my bubbles, but I feel like there are more Vigneronnes and female winemaker. At least all white, as far as I know, but who've become like... we slowly start to see more of them. But also, actually I cut you off. But also, I would love to know if you have any names, people domain that you would like to shine a light on and for people to know more about.

Nathan [00:50:02]:

Absolutely. I mean, just to close the point on your question about more and more vigneronnes. Yes. I think that there are definitely more and more female winemakers in the wine space now than there were 5-10 years ago. It is becoming, at least from a gender point of view, more diverse. But I would say that it's not just that there are more women who are interested in making wine now and then they're going to these schools. It's also that it's still an extraordinarily difficult experience for a woman to enter into the wine industry. I was in the region of Corbière this past weekend, and I went to go visit two women, Nina and Lise, who have a domain called La Revanche.

Lucie [00:51:00]:

Good name. Revenge in French.

Nathan [00:51:00]:

And so they just started oh, yes, sorry. Yeah. And so they have edited an actual newspaper that comes out four times a year in their region specifically about questions of social injustice, sexism, racism, conjugal, violence. They've really been trying to get people in the region of Corbière to talk about these questions for a long time. And then they, through their own interest, decided to start making you know, they were like, for us, we knew there would be difficulties in things that we faced, being women in the wine industry, but we still sort of thought, oh, in the natural wine space amongst our friends, things like that. It'll be much easier. When they started last year, it's 2022. And when I talked to them, just like it is such a struggle to even convince people to give them land, to use the belief that they're even capable of taking care of the earth, of cutting the vines, of doing taillage or pruning, of handling machinery.

Nathan [00:52:31]:

People won't sell things to them or the way in which that people talk to them about their wine at wine fairs. It's an onslaught of discrimination and disbelief that can be really disheartening. And so I think that while there may be systems in place now to encourage more women to enter into the wine industry when you are faced and this is the same thing for people of color who try to enter into so many different things as well. We may now have systems that claim to be blind to either racial difference or gender difference or sexual orientation difference that allow you to go to certain schools if you have, again, have been had certain privileges to allow you to get to those places. But then once you're in the actual working environment where those guardrails to help you kind of evade discrimination, get you into the position where you have a job or you have a business, it's still a constant struggle. You know what I mean? And that can lead so many people to say it's not worth it. I don't want to be the token for a really long time. It's not my responsibility to open the door for all these other people and keep going through it.


Nathan [00:52:28]:

And also for people like Nina and Lise who are like, we're by no means the first woman to deal with this situation, the fact that after seeing so many other women who are making wine that we're still in this situation, now they want to do it. This is the kind of work that they have been engaged with in a long time. They're not ignorant to the situation. But I can understand it's really disheartening. And if people refuse to talk about these things and also put forward the incredible amount of struggle it is to do this right, I think that, for me, is also the really important thing about actually celebrating and discussing these things. I'm not telling someone that a winemaker like Emilie Mutumbo, who's a Belgian Congolese winemaker, who makes wine in Catalonia, that she is of mixed race and a Belgian Congolese origin just because, oh, that's a fun fact about her. Her race is not a fun fact. The fact that she is a woman of color, who is making wine who has fought through the discrimination that she faces on a regular basis, who has to make wine in Spain to be able to kind of actually find a way to have any form of credibility kind of in a displaced place from her places of origin and who's being sold in France like this is an extraordinary achievement in its own way.


Nathan [00:55:41]:

And it's not an achievement just because of her race. But it's important, I think, to say that lift these people up right. Acknowledge that they've had to come overcome these things to get to this point and that we should see that as something that is important. Again, at that point. Confront the wine the way you want. Taste the wine. You enjoy it. You enjoy it.


Nathan [00:56:10]:

It's not actually to say that that aspect has an inherent value for the aesthetic pleasure of the wine itself, but it is an important part of the story.


Lucie [00:56:22]:

It's not just branding.


Nathan [00:55:41]:

It's not just branding. And so people like Emilie Mutumbo is a perfect example of that, I think someone like Isabelle Perraud, who has a domain called Domaine Côte de la Molière, yeah. And we've talked about her before, and I think she's had a lot of sort of recent sort of mediatization because she has a project called Paye ton Pinard, which is an Instagram account, but also really a group in association that is fighting sexual discrimination in the wine industry and really fighting it head on and sexual abuse. Exactly. And she has had to deal with a recent court case in which she was accused of defamation by a winemaker who was accused of sexual abuse and sexual harassment by a number of different women in the wine industry. And she was trying to just be in a position of reporting about the situation so people are aware of it. And there was a significant effort, not only by the winemaker in question, but by a number of people in the natural wine industry to silence her and to say, oh, you're politicizing wine. This isn't what we're making wine for.


Nathan [00:57:55]:

Oh, this person is a good person. You know what I mean? Oh, these things don't happen. Oh, it's alcohol. Things happen. Looping it back again to the ways in which this thing that can be a really beautiful thing can also be a tool of oppression in many different ways. And so we have to be constantly aware of that.


Lucie [00:58:24]:

Fun fact. I was at the trial.


Nathan [00:57:54]:

You were at the trial?


Lucie [00:58:29]:

Yeah. Because I was accompanying one of the witness in the trial. Okay. Afterwards, after the audience, I keep thinking about it. That's why I'm bringing it up. One of the men there said something that I think is so important and so interesting and so obvious and yet obvious and yet powerful to actually say is that in this industry, especially in this case and with the man that was being accused, there's this idea of, yeah, but he's just a big bear. He's just like, in like, yeah, he's a bit rough around the edges, but that's what men are like and men in this industry and all that.


Lucie [00:59:35]:

One of the men who was on Isabel's side and who we hung out with afterwards said, I'm a big bear in the wine industry. I get drunk more often than I should, and yet I know not to follow women home when they don't want me to. I know how to not harass no one's perfect. And yes, probably he said or did the man who was speaking things that probably were inappropriate and he should know better. But there's a limit that has been crossed over and over again and that's been put on the back of alcohol. Big bear. Like, guys, you know how these men are. There is a limit.


Lucie [01:00:28]:

Like, you do not rape people, you do not stalk people, you do not abuse people just because you're drunk, just because you're a big bear of a man. And coming from a big bear of a man who works in the wine industry who was like, they make it sound like that's just how we are. But it's not. This is special. And so I just wanted to share that because it's so obvious and yet so rare to hear and easy to forget.


Nathan [01:01:02]:

Yeah, absolutely.


Lucie [01:01:03]:

And thank you for bringing her up, Isabelle Perraud and Paye Ton Pinard and the other women you mentioned.


Nathan [01:01:14]:

No, I mean, thank you for accompanying the witness and being there to support these people because we need these circles of affirmation for the experiences that people go through in these ways because yeah, again, it's so much of a situation of well, especially around situations involving alcohol. But I mean, this is the case for people who are the survivors of sexual assault and abuse forever, right? I mean, the blame is put upon them. And in the aftermath of or during this conversation around this case, there were still people I would hear who would say, well, she probably shouldn't have gotten drunk with him, or she probably should have known better about the environments where and again, this has this double effect of saying, either you, as a woman, should just not be present at these things. It's just safer for you to go, you know what, guys? I'm going to go home. I don't need to be around. And what sucks is that those environments are those often environments in which professional relationships are concretized and where your ability to move forward or to potentially, if you are an aspiring winemaker, find out about a new parcel or get a chance the next day during sobriety to go visit the calf, things like that, those are now done. And again, it's like the camaraderie of experiences of alcohol can often unlock actually good positive discussions and potentially create friendship. It can be a lubricant towards positive social engagement and transformation.

Nathan [01:03:05]:

And transformation. Right. And I do see that oftentimes a certain amount of ivresse, certain amount of inebriation can be a tool of inspiration for people. And it is this transcendence also of our kind of terrestrial plane into something a little bit more carnelian, but it is absolutely never an excuse for violence, for discrimination, for anything that is actually causing another person around you harm. Never. Period.

Lucie [01:03:45]:

Preach. I love that. Thank you so much for your work and for saying that explicitly because we'll never say it enough and as we draw to a close I think that's a great note. It's a great note to end on but also kind of heavy. Something that I love to ask guests is what is a question you wish people asked you more often?

Nathan [00:57:54]:

Oh, that's a great question. Onto itself, I wish ....

Lucie [01:04:27]:

You can take as long you want to think about.

Nathan [01:04:28]:

Let me think just briefly. I mean, I wish, I honestly wish people would and this is a very simple thing but I wish people would ask me more often what Rerenga means. It's very funny because in two and a half years that I have been operating the shop I can count on two hands how many times people have asked me that in the shop. Obviously, if I'm having conversations with people like yourself, we are dealing diving more deep into it, but just people who will come into the shop remark on it. I've had customers who've never asked me this and who are regular people and again, I wish they would ask because in the name of the shop is the key to me of everything we're talking about, right? It's the flow, it is the continuity, it is our connection between our ancestors, us and future and it's the interconnectivity of everything, right? Rerenga in Te reo Maori is this notion that the turning of a river is its endless cycle, right? That a river is pulling water from the ocean and it turns and it returns back to itself. And so there's this magical thing that happens in which the water from the ocean is transformed as it takes that turn and it becomes the water that we drink, the water that our children play in that makes up the veins of our country. It's the basis. It's how Maori people came to the different parts of Aotearoa through the veins of the rivers and flow.

Nathan [01:06:38]:

And they took with them the great story of Hawaiki and our people and the great diaspora of Polynesians that came in the ocean and brought it into a funnel that takes them to the place where they are. And that place flows back. And we as a result are responsible for everything that's happened before us and we're responsible for everything that will continue after us and the pollution that is present in our rivers. What we put into it is also something that will always be there. What has happened in our past is always present now and we have to we have to be aware of it. And in taking care of these things, it's more than just saying we're taking care of the actuality of what's there now. It's not just a question of taking care of the environment as it is today. It's taking care of and acknowledging what went into.

Nathan [01:07:41]:

That what our implication is in that blessure, in that violence and not only what we can do to change the present, but what we can do to offer some sort of aid to the people connected to the past and create a better space in the future. I think if people just ask me that, it would make the idea of the shop much easier to understand.

Lucie [01:08:11]:

I love it. Thank you so much for sharing this story and all of the others. This was a beautiful conversation. I don't know...


Nathan [01:08:29]:

Thank you.

Lucie [01:08:28]: you feel? But I love it.

Nathan [01:08:35]:

I feel great. I wish I could have these conversations right before I open the shop every day. I'm going to leave this with such a wonderful energy too.

Lucie [01:08:46]:

Oh, I'm glad.


bottom of page