Em i no Paradais Long Hia

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020/2021. 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          
rangihīroa, Anguganak, 2018


Credit: featured image, Tim Laman, cape presentation form of Vogelkop Bird of Paradise, PeerJ , 16 April 2018

EM I NO PARADAIS LONG HIA

26 September 2020

THE

 KUMUL

struts out on patrol

karanga atu e ia te

SINGSING

 

In WEST SEPIK green

calling into being

sink hole black

half disk LUKLUK

pāua paint jig

 

St Heliers girl

branch dancing

paradise voyeur

Em i gat laik

 

Porotī boy

b-b-b-bobbing and sh-sh-sh-shakin’

and fl-fl-fl-flitting and movin’

and quaking

mist fingers

stretching

down TORRICELLI’S rain drenched back

 

so that visibility is attacked

at ANGUGANAK

and the sky is covered

near the bluff

where village children stare

wondering if

they’ll be

a returning

mountain gazing

on slashed grass strip below

while a yellow sesna

jumpily climbs high

asunción

into the cloud hole

beyond braided ORPAN

‘attention

all locals’

there will be no rapture

 

TRUE, A

‘this is no paradise’

I WAS BORN IN PARADISE Niuean painter/poet John Pule once began a poem, at an exhibition opening I helped organise. Pule was talking about his home village Liku on the remote Pacific island of Nuie. Recently perusing an archive of photographs I pondered my own beginnings in an equally remote area of the South Pacific. The image showed my parents and I on the Northern coast of Papua New Guinea at Moem beach at Wewak, the main port of entry into the Western Sepik. The picture featuring locals with outriggers is also shot in Wewak. My entry point to this thinking about beginnings and arcadia (as sometimes is the case) was a plant. I was busy photographing a bird of paradise ‘flower’ (South African in origin) which finally decided to bloom a few weeks ago. It’s arrival happily coincided with my sorting through research files including these references to Papua New Guinea. The puawai got me thinking about the wider issue of provenance and associative names. The sorting process led me back to my place of birth and the stunning birds of paradise (the natural point of inspiration I presume) that still survive in the more remote parts of Papua New Guinea and Northern Australia. I don’t know for sure whether I saw and heard the kumul when I was a child but when you consider the location in some of the images below its certainly possible, even highly likely.

My personal favourite is the Vogelkop Bird of Paradise native to the Indonesian run side of Papua. In my opinion it posseses the most spectacular show of colour in the male mating rituals. Its’ visual impact has to do with a half disk of the deepest black and almost florescent aquamarine streaks and dots at the centre and the base of the ‘cape’ used to flit, swish and lure the females. There is definitely another essay here about colour in nature, the copyright attempts by sculptor Anish Kapoor to own Vantablack (the world’s blackest black) and the ongoing backlash in England. This kumul is a worthy rival to Kapoor’s Vantablack. It is said to have the blackest colouring on earth with the microscopic structure of its feathers absorbing nearly 100% of the light hitting it. There are incredible images of birds of paradise in Attenborough’s films and the research work of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology featuring the fuller range of kumul in their expeditions in the northern western rain forests of West Papua. I also wanted to acknowledge Tim Laman’s breathtaking imagery of this rare and utterly cativating manu, he kumul.

I WAS BORN IN A WEST SEPIK VILLAGE CALLED ANGUGANAK later moving to Amanab closer to the recently occupied border of West Papua. My mother later told me we were close enough to witness hospitals and schools going up in smoke as the Indonesians were busy removing the earlier Dutch layer. I include some images from the vantage point of the house Dad built (at Anguganak I am assuming because the bluff – that rises sharply 300 metres into the air – sits prominently in a window in the background of one of the archived photographs).

I dedicate my poem and the images, reclaimed and researched from family letters and fire damaged black and white photographs and 35mm colour transparencies my father took in the 1960s, to my mother and the paradise she pined for but to which she never returned. This strange body of material is the beginning of a range of investigative research work including the odd diary accounts Australian field officers working in this region (Australia took over from the Germans until 1975 when PNG finally gained it’s independence). These documents, a more official background to our presence in Australian occupied PNG, involved variously taking census figures, ‘spying’ (the region shares a northern boundary that buffers Australia from Asia and which became a sensitive zone when the Indonesians annexed the region) and what can only be described as colonial – odd village – inspections and outsider observations.

My father accompanied some of these survey patrols to villages, ‘…that extended from Inabu to Amanab and out to the coast to Vanimo covering hundreds of miles of jungles, swamps and bush clad mountain ranges.’ The records of these gruelling trips are now available in the University of California, San Diego archive of PNG patrol reports and I have been matching them with personal letters. They reveal a great deal about the way in which outsiders are coming into contact with a beautiful and extremely complex range of tribal peoples who continue (thankfully) to occupy an incredibly remote yet increasingly threatened portion of the indigenous world. I am not making a statement here about precious ‘authenticity’. All cultures change and adapt. However, one hopes that indigenous Papua Nūkini peoples locate a future that suits and which expresses their uniqueness and not the ambitions of the many surrounding nations that want to commercially and culturally exploit their bountiful natural resources.

I say let the kumul sing and dance and jig and do his thing.

rangihīroa, 4 pink impatiens floating, 25 March 2018

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, 2020/2021. 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          

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
piwakawaka
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 refused to count the cost
 
raised to his last battle
near fields in which 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
no mention of their name
or that settler greed for land
was largely to blame
for a war they never asked for
how else could one explain
an eternity of loss within
a deep gnawing pain
 
and when archaeologists visit
he wishes he could yell
and call
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 mimi
 
and summer comes and summer goes
and the pōhutukawa bleeds
scarlet in the morning
10 shades of crimson
when the sun retreats

Pohutukawa ko tahi

Pohutukawa e rua
Pōhutukawa e toru..

Some notes regarding ’10 Shades…

My wife’s people, Te Aupōuri, live near Cape Rēinga. They along with 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 South Pacific have their leaping off points. This role of kaitiakitanga at the departure point of wairua 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 relish and great drama.

10 Shades…, in essence, is a ghost story taken from the point of view of a toa ‘Māori warrior’ 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.

I Drank the Water

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020. 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 The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues

 

I DRANK THE WATER

10 pm, Sunday 6 January 2018

Do you remember?

the stream we camped beside

when our families were huddled together

around the patriarch

and the dirty white canvas tent

that spouted waterfalls when it rained too hard

when your proudest boast was

how you hung off the Duke’s nose

we would put our heads under

and watch:

koeke ‘fresh water shrimps’ scuttle and dart

around smooth orange pebbles and

kōkopu flit to soft overhangs

nervous

as wind

ruffled the bracken dusted surface

even down under

we could still hear muffled

the branches of the mānuka

creak and laugh at our headless bodies

clattering they were

fondly against one another

as the clouds covered the holes in their canopy

                                                      rangihīroa, he uru manuka, Lake Rototoa, Kaipara ki Tonga, 2008

and like Narcissus

touching  the mirror

we drank from that wellspring

and drew in its purity

as if it had been struck from a rock

as if it was the air

that caressed the sheer rock cliffs

where the gannets dive

as if it was the birthright of

every New Zealander

And in case

you scoff as you wade our rivers

and dare not

practice baptism

or bring to your lips what you cannot boil

and in case you don’t recall

I drank that water

Mark Adams, Kawanui, Whatitiri Springs, 26 October 1998