FIVE MINUTES in FUTUNA

CHAPEL memorial service poroporoaki for Dr Ray Thorburn (1937-2023) Kārori 6 May 2023


Dr Ray Thorburn (far right) and te roopu whānau (L-R – Rosemary and Mapuna Pocklington, Rev. Rikki Witana Snr, ko au, Shona Pink-Martin raua ko Adam Pink-Martin) PhD celebration for Māori graduates, Tānenui-a-Rangi whare, Waipapa Mārae, University of Auckland, May 2003

Ka tangi te kūkū, ka tangi te kākā,

ka tangi hoki ahau.

Ka hinga te rākau rangatira,

he rata whakamarumaru.

Ngāueue te ngahere.

Ka rere, kei runga ake, te kāhui manu,

e ngaoki mōwaho mai ana

ngā pepeke kei raro.

Kei hea e okioki ana rātou?

Ka titiro ake au ki te poupou o te rā.

Kaore te marumaru o tou mangu

e toro mai ana.


Nā reira, e te marumaru takoto mai,

okioki koe, moe mai rā. Ka mahara au

ki tou awhi me te tautoko tonu hoki.

Haere, haere, haere, haere ki te poho

o te Atua.

Tēnā koe te whare tapū e tū nei

ko Futuna te mahi toi o te kaihanga

rongonui ko John Scott. Ka titiro au ki

te whare nei ka mōhio ki Te Atua

ae, heoi anō te āhuatanga o Tāne

whakapiripiri hoki (taku kōrero whakarite – te poutokomanawa ne!).

E te whānau pani.

Taku aroha ki a Sally rāua ko Mark

me te whānau whanui me te wāhi ngaro,

he wāhi tahanga nei i mahue iho

he mamae hōhonu.

Ka tangi te kūkū, ka tangi te kākā,

ka tangi hoki ahau.

Ka hinga te rākau rangatira,

he rata whakamarumaru.

Ngāueue te ngahere.

Ka rere, kei runga ake, te kāhui manu,

e ngaoki mōwaho mai ana

ngā pepeke kei raro.

Kei hea e okioki ana rātou?

Ka titiro ake au ki te poupou o te rā.

Kaore te marumaru o tou mangu

e toro mai ana.


Nā reira, e te marumaru takoto mai,

okioki koe, moe mai rā. Ka mahara au

ki tou awhi me te tautoko tonu hoki.

Haere, haere, haere, haere ki te poho

o te Atua.

Tēnā koe te whare tapū e tū nei

ko Futuna te mahi toi o te kaihanga

rongonui ko John Scott. Ka titiro au ki

te whare nei ka mōhio ki Te Atua

ae, heoi anō te āhuatanga o Tāne

whakapiripiri hoki (taku kōrero whakarite – te poutokomanawa ne!).

John Scott, Futuna Chapel, 1958-1961, Interior looking back to entrance, 6 May 2023

E te whānau pani.

Taku aroha ki a Sally rāua ko Mark

me te whānau whanui me te wāhi ngaro,

he wāhi tahanga nei i mahue iho

he mamae hōhonu.

E ngā whāea e ngā mātua tēnā koutou,

tēnā koutou, tēnā rā koutou katoa.


I couldn’t think of any other way to offer

a tribute in the 3 minutes left here other

than a poetic sketch to hint at the loss

and legacy left by Dr Ray Thorburn:


Ray wore shiny leather shoes

The kind that clacked on the lino and

made one stand to attention

no pretension

just passing through

seeking signatures

down rabbit hole corridors

a man on a mission

with papers and meetings and mates

and pressing dates round

plates of calendars and curricula

red face, white walrus moustache

confident gestures on the white board

charting a layline in March

ending the old and setting sail for Whetumārama

and the trajectory you plotted was a path

true to the cultures you loved

true to a uniqueness you cherished.

your words

‘…the quest in your painting
to make the image take on
the personality of its surroundings

Dr Ray Thorburn, Modular3, Series 2, 1970, Christchurch Art Gallery


and that was the new conjoint design degree programme

a balance of horizontals and verticals

producing a third plane:

optical, bedazzling

where you sought

‘…[a] total environment where the audience is completely

encompassed by the work.’

And out of this fertile soil

your manager wanted to grow 

a Bauhaus of the South Pacific

but I think a gathering place of

like-minded colleagues

was more in your mind

a mārae ātea


where you assembled

and employed us

and sold us

a dream in the early 1990s

me a burnt out foundational Māori curator

and others more senior

from around the world

signed up with the stroke of a pen

in airport lounges entered and exited

between flights


I once asked you how you knew I was looking for work?

a little bird tapped on my shoulder, you said

and over the years we kept connections

LinkedIn, my PhD celebration, job references

where we supported one another

or perhaps, where you were simply trying to encourage


I found you a man of vision and ideas

who believed in me more than I believed in myself

I now stand on your shoulders

Not because the vision has been executed

But because your legacy is in

others bringing it to life.

I think you were right when you wrote

but never sent me these words:


‘…you and your colleagues did outstanding
work  transforming the school and creating
NZ’s first conjoint degree programme between
a university and polytechnic.  It was a culturally
inclusive curriculum which Massey University
took over and adapted…To not stand up for
those who made it possible is to dishonour
their remarkable achievements.’

Dr Ray Thorburn, portrait in situ, memorial service, Futuna Chapel, 6 May 2023

Your life Dr Ray Thorburn was full of such

remarkable achievements and it was an

honour walking with you a while

and here

recounting one of the milestones

along the way.


Nā reira, kanui te koa

kua huihui mai tātou i tēnei ahiahi pō,

kia ora mai anō tātou katoa.

_________________________________________________

https://vimeo.com/817089068/6cb172de62
Press the above vimeo link for the whole the Futuna Chapel memorial service (the 5 minutes referenced above is 1:02:10 onwards).

MONUMENTAL CHANGE

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2019-2023. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com

how we remember ‘colonial legacy’ : the Marmaduke George Nixon obelisk, Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu

Nixon obelisk, Great South Rd, Tāmaki Makaurau. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

‘Photographer Bruce Connew: NZ’s colonial memorials’. Excerpt from Kim Hill Interview with Connew, Saturday Morning, 11.40 am on 19 December 2020

…K.H              Let’s just talk about one of the pictures we have up on our web page. It is part of a gravestone to Marmaduke George Nixon who commanded colonial defence force cavalry. Interesting reference to Nixon in an essay within your book by the historian/curator Dr Rangihīroa Panoho, who says that New Zealand should not try to sanitize this unflattering history. Don’t remove that Ōtāhuhu memorial to Colonel Nixon, for example, how else will we learn? Do you share that view, presumably?

B.C      Yes, I do share that view but it was interesting when I came up with the idea for this project I wanted someone to write an essay. The very first person I thought about was Rangihīroa and contacted him and he agreed. But what I wanted to do, maybe this is the Pākehā boy from Panmure, I wanted to photograph separately [my emphasis]. I didn’t want him to see what I was photographing. I didn’t want him to discuss what I was photographing…

K.H      So his essay is not a commentary on your photos

B.C      Absolutely. So [that was] what I wanted, although at times he has found it a little bit awkward. He has written beautifully. It will make you cry. But…I didn’t want to see it until it was bound in the book. Two things there. One, I didn’t want it to influence me in the way I responded to what I found because I was on a mission to find what was out there and what it might mean. I wanted him to write without me trying to influence him. It had to be completely his. I was determined and I didn’t read it until the book was bound and I was completely blown away. [I] could see that we crossed over in places – Māori/Pākehā – quite different cultures but we brought similar ideas together.

K.H      And it’s a really timely book because we seem to have reached some peak colonisation talk in this last year. People, and this is around the world not only in New Zealand, have this prescient view. To you it feels like this was the continuation of your career.

B.C      It’s the way it worked out. It was the next thing. There was discussion as the [Civil War] monuments started to come down in the US…whether the monuments here should be pulled down or turned away and that is what Rangi is referring to in his text. There are two things out at Ōtāhuhu. There is the 8 metre tall monument. He was a very popular army man at the time. New Zealand loved him. But he was also part of the militia which went out and killed people. There is also a gravestone in front of that monument and that is where that photograph is from – Grafton Gully. He is one of the few who was disinterred and the remains put out at Ōtāhuhu. He was involved in a pretty bad moment in the war.     

This small blog is a belated response to a portion of the above RNZ interview which I just played back. The reference point to the conversation is the section of my essay below and of course to the contentious and ongoing debate as to whether George Marmaduke Nixon’s Monument should be removed from its current Ōtāhuhu location (despite the Auckland Council’s response in 2017). I refer to Nixon directly in my essay and this is picked up on in Kim Hill’s commentary. However, my reasons for wanting these kinds of monuments to stay in position isn’t just the point I make about reminding future New Zealanders about our dodgy colonial past. In the very first paragraph of the 2nd section of the essay I lay out my understanding of whakapapa and the way that history is layered. Yes, I am quoting Orwell but it is really just because he describes it so well. History is a palimpsest. I believe, and I tested this theory to a large degree in my book MAORI ART, that the best kind of palimpsest is the one that shows all its layers – the accretion of the good, the bad and the ugly. That is our mixed up past and to try and hide it away in a museum or a library or in our pronouncements about people’s behaviour is a very poor legacy we leave unresolved for future generations. Kim Hill noted that an Ōtāhuhu resident, who saw herself as educated, felt the monument should be removed. Her reasoning was that we wouldn’t want a statue of Hitler in our midst. Everyone should be allowed to express their opinion but I do wonder whether the Auckland resident considered Germany’s Erinnerungskultur and the Nazi predicament that continues to haunt leaders and common people alike even to this day. See, for example, one commentator’s view of Chancellor Angela Merkles legacy as a leader.

All German post-war chancellors have been committed to a “culture of remembrance” (Erinnerungskultur) that remembers the Holocaust and its victims and accepts the responsibility to transmit knowledge of the crimes to younger generations. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s constant and consistent commitment to furthering a culture of remembrance has stood out.

Grappling with such a serious legacy is still there. Burying a monument, judged by a particular generation to be politically incorrect, in museum storage or perhaps on display or, worse, erasing the public memory of the momument (or possibly destroying it) does not help the public view, interpret or understand why it was once valorised by earlier generations of the same public. Seeing and engaging, rather than imagining, the physical remains of our ‘colonial’ legacy may very well help us better understand it.

Panoho, part of essay for Connew’s ‘A Vocabulary’

E KŌRERO ANA KEI ROTO I TE KORE ‘SPEAKING INTO THE VOID’, the 2nd section of an essay written for Bruce Connew’s ‘A Vocabulary’, Vapour Momenta Press, 2021

There must be a way then to speak into the complex layers of this past where family and tribal members are both loyalist and ‘rebels’ and where leaders serve very different tribal and Crown agendas at the same time. Perhaps an adaption of the British novelist George Orwell’s palimpsest might be useful here. In his historical allegory Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwell said, 'All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary' Rather than the authoritarian erasure Orwell describes the printer’s palimpsest might prove more utilitarian. Here the past might be thought of as not so much erased but as rendered translucent. Each layer of time builds on the previous and collectively it allows a peering-through process to take place.
                                                 Panoho in Connew 2021: 31 

ĀTĀROA at the Kupe Waka Centre

KOHIA TE HĀ O TE AURERE ‘gather the essence of the wind’


© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2019-2023. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com

MAORI ART exhibited in a far northern community

‘…his passing [i.e. that of Hekenukumai Busby] is a big loss to everyone in the waka community, not just us, but to all those in the Pacific. And it’s a huge challenge for us. It’s not as if the waka has landed and it’s all over now. We’ve got to keep trying to move along and face all the challenges like he did over the last 40 years. We’d be irresponsible not to try to carry on with his mahi and kaupapa. Otherwise, our time with him would’ve been all for nothing…A large burden has been lifted from him, and our job now is to ensure that we are true to the things he taught us.’

Hoturoa Barlow-Kerr, ‘Hoturoa and the waka legacy, E -Tangata 9 June 2019

I started out writing this blog to help explain the context for an exhibition of Māori art (ĀTĀROA ‘long shadow’) I contributed within Whētu Mārama ‘bright star’ a Māori community building, part of the Kupe Waka Centre which opened 10 December 2022 and which continues until 10 February 2023. If you are interested in that part of the kōrero then you will find detail at the end of this account and in the latter selection of images enclosed.

Continue reading “ĀTĀROA at the Kupe Waka Centre”

HE KOHUKOHU WAOWAO

‘the mist that obscures’

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020-2023. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com  


Dear Ranginui.

I heard that the mist is

your tears mourning separation

over aeons from your lover – Papa.

It’s a comological story

And yet still you shower us with your heart

I hear the tangi across St Lukes

when you send a river

like Tāhū-o-te-rangi

across the sky?


You are the painter that rides the clouds with prussian blue

and with one calligraphic stroke

throws cadmium white into the air.

talcum brush

puff

kohukohu ‘mist’ –


as if

to break the silence

and to announce

yours is the better korowai for Papa.

better than the concrete shroud

the blanket of tar sporting

warpaint

arrows and lines

letters and hieroglyphics


three tall pylons,

and a couple of billboards

that quietly inject steel legs

into the skin

of the local carpark.

M a C X: Te Kōpua ‘the deep’

A discussion regarding recent participation in Curator Māori recruitment, Toi o Tāmaki 2021

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020-2022. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com       

‘Te Kōpua “the deep”, have you ever been at a point of crisis in your life where you have been brought to the edge…’


2021 for me has involved high highs and some lows lows. Life eh. The latter has involved enduring a 7 month long wait with a recruitment process for Curator Māori involving the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. I was shortlisted for the position back in March 22, went through their interview process ‘in good faith’ as the person in charge described it. Three referees were requested, 5 of my listed referees were actually approached with long detailed conversations reported back to me.


There was a person chosen unanimously by the panel and then…nothing for 3 weeks. Then on April 15, after requests for information I was told the gallery was taking ‘a pause’ in the recruitment process. On May 3 I sent a link to the chair of the search panel about keeping candidates engaged during recruitment processes. Obviously I was referring to myself. I was given the impression I should hang in there, ‘in good faith’. Those were the words I remember being used several times along with comments about what benefits there would be waiting for the gallery to go through whatever it was doing. This was all in a telephone conversation – nothing written down or official.  The next time I heard from the Panel was 12 October, ‘As promised some months ago, I’m getting in touch…’ In the intervening five months of silence a whole lot of spin came out from the AAG in the Media that the Gallery needed to make other appointments first one of which, ‘Kaupapa Māori’, would directly be involved in the Curator Maori appointment process. The person appointed to such a position would bring a particular expertise, in the area of the Treaty of Waitangi and its relevance in the workplace, to the Gallery. Apparently this was a priority that explained the ‘pause’.

More Māori representation sounded strange to me because two of the three panel members in the March interview were Māori. One was a representative of Haerewa (the Māori advisory panel supporting Māori within the gallery) and the other had broader Auckland Council experience in ToW workplace related issues. More importantly when the appointed ‘Kaupapa Māori’ member sat on the 12 November panel he only had a small area in the interview questionnaire because he (as with the Deputy Director  – also Maori and appointed several weeks earlier) had corporate but no background experience working in galleries, or in the arts industry or with curating Māori art specifically. Another wait followed and after a couple of weeks of no response to the interview and no request for referees I was inevitably informed another candidate had been appointed to the position.


What followed were a series of exchanges with an HR Manager who mentioned no commitment to the preferred candidate in the March interview had been made. After a number of letters and pressing her with a timeline, and arguing about the need to dialogue since the gallery apparently placed emphasis on partnership/conversational values and principles identified in the Treaty, some real information was squeezed out. I recall right at the end of my November 12 interview (the only chance one gets to actively dialogue) I asked the Director, why the protracted recruitment process and the long delays? No real or genuinely felt apology was offered, just a comment others higher up the chain, felt she (the Director) ‘apparently’ needed to be involved in the interview process. The HR Manager in a final proper response clarified the first process (where a unanimous decision had been made and references had been sought) had not been signed off by the Director. Bingo. Here was the issue that would have been useful back in April/May. Yes a clear rejection (i.e. we no longer want to proceed with your application) but something I could have coped with better than being kept hanging for much of the working year waiting for an interview that in the end most definitely was a formality, where something had already been decided and we were just going through the motions.

The wait and being left hanging was the issue, not the minor involvement that ToW kaupapa had in the final appointment. In the end only two of three original March panel members sat on the Committee and there was a strange addition to the Panel of the newly appointed Deputy Director also turning up (he asked one confusing question) to bolster, one presumes, the interview score so the numbers weighed in favour of the directorial position privately indicated in March. All in all there was no way anyone, even someone unanimously selected in the March interview and a previously preferred candidate, was going to successfully take on those odds in that November interview if the Director did not want them appointed. In my spirit I felt throughout that interview the outcome was already fait accompli.


Of course it was devastating to have the phone call from the person that had told me in March I should hang in there ‘in good faith’. However, the point of my kōrero here is not to dwell on my unhappiness with the rude and arrogant way AAGToT made me wait 7 months while they got their processes, response and alternative candidate worked out. I want to say that my referees for this position were amazing, incredibly supportive and that they always believed in me. Their response was they felt the long wait was unnecessary, the process dodgy, and it was the gallery’s loss not appointing me.


I am frustrated by the small number of industry people that keep cutting across and undermining me in the arts and in education. And that will be my ongoing process to find who slithers in the shadows. It still hurts and I am working through it but what I wanted to share here was a far more special moment that dramatically changed my thinking about this whole concern. My wife insisted on sharing a video she had taken of me talking about a month earlier about a painting that came out of a studio experience producing work for ĀTĀROA and the Mahara Gallery in Waikanae from May through to August. I was really reluctant to look at it. Although I am an educator and a presenter, lately I haven’t spoken much in posts. It was about 5/6 years ago I did some radio, television interviews and a short marketing film on my book MAORI ART, History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory (Batemans, 2015/2018).


Anyway, there I was the other day being forced to look at myself talking about Te Ruki Kawiti and the fight atop Ruapekapeka in 1845 and his kōrero with Hōne Wiremu Heke Pōkai … and I was deeply moved! It was like a version of myself and the ancestors had spoken truth into my spirit and into my future and I was listening to it.

So friends have you ever been at a point in your life where you have been brought to the edge? Have you ever taken on the parāoa in the ‘deep’? How did you cope? I want to make the point that neither the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, nor of the earlier more important 1835 He Whakaputanga (the Declaration of Independence) nor of current institutional visions and slogans offered much hope for me in this particular situation. What moved me were the events that followed the signing of the 1840 document just as it moved Hōne Heke to test the Union Jack and British sovereignty. What moved me was the unhappiness of Te Ruki Kawiti to put up with the constant reneging of the Crown and its unwillingness to truly share power and honour the rangatiratanga and mana of indigenous leaders. Te Kawiti’s actions at Ōhaeawai and Ruapekapeka show a willingness to go out into te kōpua ‘the deep’ and take on the resistance.  

REVIEWS

publicity Maori Art book

Tafanua as a kōtiro, Hunua Room, Aotea Centre, 14 July 2022

TAFANUA.

Performance and hākari ‘feast’, Hunua Room, Aotea Centre, Tāmaki Makaurau, 14 – 23 July 2022 Directed by Tausani Simei-Papali’i and brought to life by Tala Pasifika Productions and Pacific Women’s dance collective Ura Tabu. Costumes: Shona Tawhio.

I attended the first showing of ‘Tafanua’ last night at the Hunua Room with my wife. The whole performance was deeply refreshing. I would go so far as to say ‘Tafanua’ was a spiritual experience because of the values you could feel being gently pushed at one as an audience. If fa’a ‘the Samoan way’ (i.e. culture) is based on the principles of alofa ‘love’, faaaloalo ‘mutual respect’ feosia’i ‘reciprocity’, fetufaa’i ‘sharing’ and felagolagoma’i ‘mutual support’ then I sensed, without fully being able to explain why, these values or tikanga were present and bubbling. There simply isn’t any other way to describe it and we, Aucklanders, are lucky to be at the epicentre of a creative performance fabric that is being woven before our very eyes on our stages. Go and see this performance, it will move you and you will be confronted with the challenge to interact with these wonderful performers. Go and support the ongoing development of these extraordinary outpourings of creativity and generous sharing of wānanga, Samoan narratives, legacy, tā rātou kupu ‘their stories’. It’s only on for a short 4 nights from tonight. Don’t miss out (14 Jul – 23 Jul 2022). Plan an evening in town, it is 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 20 min interval. Parking is available at the Civic Centre (Entry from Greys Ave) and the venue is the Hunua Room, on level 1, Aotea Centre.


https://pihirau.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/tafanua-720p-1.mp4

https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/730234672

ĀTĀROA, Mahara Gallery, Waikanae

Mark Amery ‘The Dominion’, Wellington 14 August 2021

https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/arts/300380986/te-hkoi-toi-creating-new-zealand-antiwar-memorials

William Dart, Review, (Editor for Art New Zealand) February 2021
John Hurrell, Review ‘A Vocabulary’ for eyecontact social media site dedicated to critical commentary on NZ visual art

BEST BOOKS OF 2020

The publication_A Vocabulary

A fair and supportive response to my Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua mōteatea and pito kōrero in Bruce Connew’s ‘A Vocabulary…’

Review by Paul Diamond interviewed by Catherine Ryan on Radio New Zealand. The particular part of the sound byte concerning ‘A Vocabulary’ starts at 2 minutes…

The show ‘A Vocabulary’ is still on at Te Uru in Titirangi for another couple of weeks. And I just signed another 60 books this morning so I know there are now more books available from Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery. There is also a panel discussion planned with Bruce Connew, myself and the typography artist Catherine Griffiths who designed both the book and the exhibition, prior to the completion of the show at Te Uru (details to come). Best Rangihīroa

P.S Nice to know I am still a curator, perhaps Māori Curator 🙂

Bruce Connew, A Vocabulary, Vapour Momenta Press

Lament

Book signing today with photographer Bruce Connew and writer Rangihīroa Panoho. Connew’s accompanying exhibition of photographs and the artist’s book available at Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ. Copies of ‘A Vocabulary’ sold out on the night, these are part of the next batch from the binders.

Who said people aren’t reading or buying books! This one is beautifully made. A gorgeous thing. Typography and exhibition design by Catherine Griffiths. Cloth, case-bound, 604 pages, section sewn, round spine, ribbon

10 SHADES OF CRIMSON

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020-2023. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission.  Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com          

written for the opening of Bruce Connew, ‘A Vocabulary’, Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi 12 December 2020

E ngā mate. Ka mahara tātou ki ngā mumu Māori e takoto ana kei raro i ngā parekura o ngā pakanga whenua o mua. Haere, haere, haere. Haere ki te poho o te Atua, haere ki Hawaikinui, Hawaiki roa, Hawaiki pāmamao.

rangihīroa, Hato Mikaere, Ōhaeawai


The parekura
sits silent
no noise at all
just the chatter
of a tui
wrecking putiputi
down by the hall
just the wind
murmuring
across the fertile plains
he swore he heard their
voices around
Ngāi Kuku’s last remains
 
down by the river
where the fighting pā
once stood
or was it just the twittering of
pīwakawaka
in the woods
 
the scale of the loss
disgusted him
it explained why he refused
the spirit path to Rēinga
instead he would choose
to guard over
bones and taonga
and mourn unmentioned loss
hidden from a nearby cenotaph
that counted not the cost
 
raised to his last battle
near fields where he toiled
he read the text again and again
as if it would reveal
some other truth or meaning
that might possibly transcend
a vocabulary of forgetting
bronze letters that won’t bend
colourful adjectives
murdering rebels, barbarous savages

he struggled with the message
they were a people worth forgetting

Indeed not a word
of his hapū’s bravery
not a mention of their name
or that settler greed for land
was largely to blame
for a war no native asked for
how else could one explain
an eternity of loss within
and this deep gnawing pain
 
and when archaeologists visit
he wishes they’d hear him yell
Haere mai
E hoa, haul your trig over here, man
Yeah map us brother, draft us on that plan
 
but the grid only measures trenches
so we’ll always be missed
except by manuhiri
that want to take a piss
 
and summer comes and summer goes
and the pōhutukawa bleeds
scarlet in the morning
10 shades of crimson
when sun retreats

He pōhutukawa ko tahi

He pōhutukawa, e rua
He pōhutukawa, e toru..

Some notes regarding ’10 Shades…

My wife’s people, Te Aupōuri, live near Cape Rēinga in the ‘far North’ of Aotearoa. They along with other Muri Whenua iwi, like Ngāti Kuri, consider themselves gatekeepers to Te Rerenga o Wairua ‘the leaping off point of the Spirits’ at the northern extremity of Aotearoa. Many Polynesian Islands in the South Pacific have these leaping off points. This role of kaitiakitanga ‘guardianship’ at the departure point of ēnei wairua ‘these spirits’ journeying to Hawaiki has created family histories where ghost stories are common. At times the Spirits stop along the way and there are visitations. The narratives told at night of encounters with the spirits are the most frightening and are remembered and passed on with great relish and drama by the skilled storytellers of Muri Whenua.

10 Shades…then , in essence, is a ghost story taken from the point of view of a toa ‘Māori warrior’, he mumu Māori, who decides not to take the path to Rēinga and remains with his whānau and the warriors he fought with on a Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua battefield. In the poem one of the greatest struggles the central character has is accepting a memorial inscription raised near the battlefield. History, so the saying goes, is written by the victors. While this may be partly true these are also the days where indigenous voices outside the majority culture may also contest such histories.