Change: Decolonising Skincare

In 2020 we learned that e-commerce is very viable. In the magazine, Serum covered a few stories of women who quit their 9-5 days in the rat race to pursue being their own bosses, mums working from home, enabling themselves to spend more time with their children. In the new website feature Apothecary, Serum is ready to share what we have learned about healing.

Decolonising skin care is about taking your time back, and implementing social distancing lessons from Covid-19. Serum is about teaching people they can vote with their money while promoting the ethics of buying local. 

Working as a reporter, I interviewed a health professional who has worked to set up systems for Māori to re-enter the national health system since the 1980s:

“Rongoa isn’t seen as an area that you can pay for, but we use all of these oils and medicines that are available every day in your garden. You don’t have to go to a pharmacy or Pharmac or the doctors to pay $35 for a doctor’s appointment to get a $17 prescription – most of this stuff is available. If you have a cold, lemons.”

He told me, in 1907 New Zealand, the government imposed the Tohunga Suppression Act, which was executed with the intention of stopping Māori being able to use their own healing practices, which colonisers thought had a supernatural or spiritual element. It also took away their health autonomy.

During the Victorian Age [1837-1901] modesty was highly valued and this was a time that affected the rest of the world. In the Guardian, dermatologist expert Neil Singh wrote in August, 2020:

“In an age of rising capitalism and colonialism, it [skin colour division] became a convenient way for white people to divide up the world into those who would labour hardest, and those who would benefit most from the wealth this produced.

“Irene Silverblatt, a professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University, describes how the Spanish were the first to systematically divide the world by skin colour in the 17th century: “white, black, and brown [became] abridged, abstracted versions of coloniser, slave, and colonised.'”

SERUM is about building a story for the people I see as real. People who have been subject to discrimination and racism and continue to live with grace and style anyway. This is for my mother, who I thought was weird growing up, because instead of buying desiccated coconut, she used to sit on a dirty plank of wood she sent here in a container full of house goods from Malaysia; so she could grate coconut husks, using a samurai ninja blade looking thing.

She did this to make hand made Indian coconut candy, which I can still taste the butteriness of in my mouth today. As an adult I’ve come to appreciate the process and the therapy she would have felt by grating the husk, curling it skillfully with her wrist, back and forth, back and forth over the blade.

My mother does not believe mental health is real, she can’t understand it, my experience has taught me otherwise, but this journey is about finding a harmonious balance between both worlds. Because of my mother, I know just how sweet a snow pea tastes when eaten straight off the vine, that, mixed with the earthy rawness of the sweet crunch from a freshly-plucked baby carrot are influences on my essential oil choices today.

To date, many of my friends and sisters have taught me lessons of balms and rongoa, and methods of generating healing energy. I’ve been shown how to listen to my guts but I’m still a baby at it. Following the brand will be about learning my story with me. A fellow sister who is a healer told me in a time of a mental health crisis before Covid, ‘I need to seek out the pains in my ancestral bloodlines in order to address the hurt and therefore blockage to my happiness and growth.’ Sharing these balms and experiences with you is how I plan to do that.

At the end of 2020, myself and a close friend ended up at a mirimiri session unexpectedly, but fortuitously. “Tracy always says people always end up on the table when they’re supposed to,” my cousin, who directed us there told us afterwards.

Tracy ended up being one of New Zealand’s most loved romiromi and mirimiri healers. Not knowing her from a bar of soap, she still located my exact traumas in my knee and right ankle. She did the same for my friend, who tries her best to be as private as possible, so we all chuckled when a stranger found her problems with her mum in her right ankle too.

Both of us found unexpected healing at the right time, for deep traumas we’re only learning how to articulate at present.

Afterward, Hannah posted on Instagram that the session was life changing, so SERUM is about making those moments matter. With the recent holistic developments in society enabling the use of words like ‘generational trauma’ and women learning to stand up for other women, SERUM is about healing our world within proximity, starting with your skin.

Shop coming soon…

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