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What is a real Maori issue?

January 8, 2012

What is a real Maori issue?” Pistacchi asks: “What does a real Maori writer look like? What does she act like? What does she write about? While squirming in their seats in recognition of their own unconscious essentialist biases, the only answer the members of the class seemed to be able to come up with was that a real Maori writer looked and sounded like Patricia Grace or Witi Ihimaera – a sentiment that I know would distress both of these pioneering authors.” (2-3)

“It occurred to me during this discussion,” she continues, “how important it is for New Zealand literary scholars to find ways to talk about recent twenty-first century texts written by both well-established authors like Grace and Ihimaera and by younger, less well-known Maori writers in ways that do not pigeonhole them as a result of essentialist expectations.” (3)

“The desire to nurture the reading and discussion of texts written by a wide variety of Maori writers is echoed in the sentiments of Patricia Grace herself, who says:

We need Maori writers from every sort of background, writers who are from a traditional background, or from urban backgrounds; writers who know a lot about their Maori heritage, some who don’t, some who’ve felt the loss of that; some who know where their turangawaewae is, some who don’t; and all the various experiences of being Maori need to come through in our literature for a large picture to be available of what being Maori is. Otherwise you get into stereotypes again if there aren’t enough writers – stereotyping was the thing that I abhorred so much when we were only being written about by non-Maori writers. If we are not careful, that can come about again by not having enough Maori writers'” (3-4)


Ref: (emphases in bold green, mine) Ann Katherine Pistacchi (2009) Spiralling Subversions: The Politics of Maori Cultural Survivance in the Recent Critical Fictions of Patricia Grace, Paula Morris, and Kelly Ana Morey. PhD thesis, University of Auckland: Auckland. (FREELY AVAILABLE ONLINE)

NOTE: I can’t do the macron on the a or u (imagine it when you read Maori and turangawaewae…)


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