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…to be Maori outside of New Zealand

October 28, 2015

I was just listening to an interesting podcast in which Alice te Punga Somerville talks about indigenous Commonwealth writing and the place of unpublished/unrecognised writing in our national literature. She makes some incredibly interesting points.   (Books that Built New Zealand – She is the fourth interviewee, towards the end of the podcast)

In this interview, Alice te Punga Somerville talks about some of Once Were Pacificthe gaps and quirks in how we think of literature in New Zealand (and how we claim books and authors as being ‘of New Zealand’). In studying New Zealand literature, we should certainly be asking the questions and considering the oddities that she points out.

NB (See for a little more detail about this author, whom te Punga Somerville discusses)

Interviews with Alice te Punga Somerville appear a couple of times in the Radio New Zealand Archives and she makes some really important points in each of them: about, for example: What it means to be Maori outside of New Zealand and What it means to be a Pacific Islander; an indigenous person of the Pacific, etc.

Alice Te Punga Somerville and the Māori diaspora

In this interview, Alice Te Punga Somerville uses Whalerider as an example of how we can look at what it is to be Maori from a different angle than has been used in the past. It was fascinating how she reframed this text (or ‘these texts’ – book and film).

She places Whalerider in the context of Maori diaspora, pointing out that “The book has this whole completely different angle [from the film] on what it is to be Maori. …There’s this thing that happens in Whalerider [the book] that we certainly don’t get from the film. The film is a story about Maoris and maybe a few Pakehas… The book is a story about Maori who are part of the Pacific… not always in comfortable ways… so the Nanny in the book is kind of like “Eh, don’t people in New Guinea, like eat people?” and “make sure you’re not put in a cooking pot!” …so there’s a kind of acknowledgment of these colonial views we’ve had of the region, but ultimately, for me anyway, the Whalerider makes this really important contribution to our understanding of who we are as Maori and that is within the region, within the Pacific region, a ‘cuz’ is a ‘cuz’.” [cuz as in cousin]

PREVIEW 2015 Alice Te Punga Somerville_ Once were Pacific

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