Ora Nui 4 - Māori Literary Journal, Various Authors and Artists compiled by Anton Blank
Be prepared to be exported to a new paradigm in cultural interconnectivity. This selection of powerful poetry, writings and art meld into a wondrous collective that asks the question of lineage across Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
As curator of this Māori Literary Journal Special Edition, Anton Blank writes a provocative and enticing premise for his introduction to the collection.
According to the theory of Austronesian migration, Māori descend from the Indigenous tribes of Taiwan, who migrated widely. The migration means that Māori share a lineage with the peoples of Polynesia, Southeast Asia, West New Guinea and Madagascar.
This aspect of Māori history has a very slim sphere of influence in the education system in New Zealand but is certainly laid bare on the pages of this new Journal. The shared experiences of the individuals and the similar artistry is undeniable. The link, however strong or tenuous that link may be, should be left to science but in the expressions on the pages: there is a shared memory.
One aspect to really explore in this collection of writing and art is the connection with lineage and whakapapa that is prevalent no matter where the writer or artist is from. That connection with who we are, and where in the world we ancestrally connect with matters. It grounds these artists of words and paint. It provides a framework within which one can begin to create works that are relative and meaningful both to the individual and as a preservation of culture. They are expressions of identity.
Each author or poet or artist shares a personal story as preamble to their work. Names that are instantly recogniseable in the literary community in New Zealand - and, I dare say equally recogniseable with their Taiwanese counterparts - such as Apirana Taylor, Jacqueline Carter and Hinemoa Jones share the stage with less known new writers that exude talent and control over their craft.
The poetry, with offerings such as Arihia Latham’s Nine stars, one night, is stunning especially when followed by prose such as Syaman Rapongan’s magnificent The Eyes of the sky where, in his preamble, writes about “[finding] answers when traditions are confronted by modernity”. I think that line sums up much of the expression presented in the multiple forms of writing in the book.
On the art side, Idas Losin’s work is fantastically breathtaking and adorns the cover of the collection as well. The image of two people intimately connected in hongi is portrayed with precision and beauty. The art is a mixture of traditionally inspired pieces set alongside modernist approaches. They in themselves tell the story that sits just below the consciousness of the page. The connection is strong.
The word ‘remarkable’ is bandied around too readily these days and has become a little trite in its ability to express meaning. This collection is remarkable in the most fundamental sense of the word. It is a homage to those who have gone before, and a nod to those who will follow in this continued exploration of life in New Zealand and Taiwan.
Reviewer: Chris Reed
Oranui Press, RRP $45.00