Tikanga by Francis and Kaiora Tipene
Tikanga promises on the cover to be a guide on ‘Living with the traditions of te ao Māori’ and is one of the more conversational and easy to follow guides around. Growth in the area of te ao Māori is substantial and the market is thriving. Creating opportunity for all New Zealanders to become enraptured with the depth and beauty of the culture. The authors, Francis and Kaiora Tipene, have become somewhat of a household name with their Life as a Casketeer book which spawned the TVNZ series The Casketeers (now in its fourth season). They certainly have a unique view on life dealing with their business in death.
The book, Tikanga, is split into various Māori concepts that are recogniseable to all and explained in straightforward terms to clarify meaning first and foremost before drawing on their own inherent knowledge to impart to the reader some suggestions on incorporating these ideas into daily life. Aspects like Mana, Whaikorero, and Tikanga are among the 30+ terms and concepts explored throughout the guide - each with their individual anecdotal and cultural references.
The conversational style is very readable in bite size episodes, or for easy browsing though it is likely you’ll find yourself knocking off 100 pages with little effort. Such is the level of control that the speakers have over their narrative. The interview format where Francis ‘speaks’, and then Kaiora - or vice versa - really works as a narrative development and provides an intimacy - like they are sharing their world with the reader. Which, in reality, they are.
As masters of the language, the couple seamlessly incorporate te reo (with clear definition or translation) in the writing and it adds to the authenticity of the purpose presented in the text. Through this guide it is clear that the reader can easily integrate elements of te ao Māori into their daily lives with a few small but purposeful changes. Even the te reo elements are simple and straightforward, so there is no need to be concerned with one’s own ability.
The anecdotal part of the book is what really interests the reader. The couple claim to not be ‘experts’ in tikanga. On the back cover, the blurb suggests that anyone can google the meaning of a particular word or phrase, rather the Tipenes gives that daily practice and general adoption of the protocols, or tikanga, in Māori culture. It is the living of these values that makes the difference, both in the world of this family, and for those who engage with the book.
Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and practical read which holds interest for those looking for a bit more of an understanding of Māori world view and fundamental concepts within the indigenous culture of Aotearoa.
Reviewer: Chris Reed
Harper Collins, RRP $39.99