Into the world of light

Having shared some history books with you yesterday I hope you will indulge me as I share a book that was significant for me as a reader and I believe for New Zealanders at the time it was published. Into the World of Light was an anthology of Maori Writing edited by Witi Ihimaera and D. S Long and published in 1982.

This is an anthology of poetry and short stories all by writers who have Maori ancestry. It has works which are translated from Maori into English as well as from English into Maori. It’s publication acknowledged that New Zealand has two official spoken and written languages and that English was no longer the only language for New Zealand literature.

This anthology introduced me to writers I had never read before. Bruce Stewart, Hone Tuwhare, Keri Hulme, Apriana Taylor, and so many more contributed to this collection which became my go-to text for the next few years as I taught literature in secondary school. The stories and poems were not my personal stories or experiences but I recognised that they were significant in contributing to the richness of our experiences as New Zealanders.

I cannot read the Maori language, this deficit leaves me unable to fully appreciate what is the heart of the writing yet my ignorance of the language should never prevent the writers who are fluent express their thoughts. I appreciate the translations and explanations, this generosity invites me into the world of light.

Unfortunately, this book is no longer in print but second-hand copies are obtainable and when I was back in New Zealand last July I borrowed it from our local public library. Forgive me for indulging in this nostalgia, I sincerely hope that you may come upon it one day in a library or possibly the personal collection of a kiwi friend or colleague. Like any treasure, the fact you have to search for makes it even more valuable.

Below is one of my favourite poems from the anthology. I would often feel that “Tihei Mauriora” is all I knew when I was on the Marae.  Below the poem is a video to give some context to the poem. Tu, the character in the poem has entered the marae, a meeting house for his whanau (family). He is feeling bereft of his cultural heritage and sees that his heritage is still important to him.

Sad Joke on a Marae
Tihei Mauriora I called Kupe Paikea Te Kooti
Rewi and Te Rauparaha
I saw them
grim death and wooden ghosts
carved on the meeting house wall.
In the only Maori I knew
I called
Tihei Mauriora.
Above me the tekoteko
He ripped his tongue from his mouth
and threw it at my feet.
Then I spoke.
My name is Tu the freezing worker.
Ngati D. B. is my tribe.
The pub is my Marae.
My fist is my taiaha.
Jail is my home.
Tihei Mauriora I cried.
They understood
tekoteko and the ghosts
though I said nothing but
Tihei Mauriora
for that’s all I knew.
by Apirana Taylor

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Amanda Bond is a New Zealand ex-pat currently working as Teacher Librarian in an international school in Istanbul, Turkey. Her twitter handle is @kiwionthego

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