Part of the Bargain: the Right to Write

A few months ago, I was commissioned to write a review of an exhibition at my local art gallery. The kaupapa was women’s suffrage through whakaaro Māori (a Māori lens). It was titled ‘Māreikura’. 

Mareikura

  1. (verb) nobly born female.
  2. (noun) an order of female supernatural beings corresponding to the male whatukura.

I was both excited by and apprehensive about this invitation. Commissioned pieces are a great way to develop new skills and to think about writing for different audiences. It’s also an excuse to dive into what I love most: social history and research. What I’m less enthusiastic about are reviews, in particular, the tikanga underpinning them. What’s the purpose of a critique? Is it to whakamana or whakaiti? Is it even possible or desirable to aim for ‘objectivity’? 

To give myself more space, I signalled early that I would be more comfortable offering a response to the ‘Māreikura’ exhibition rather than a critique. I’m not an art critic. I’m just your average curious individual. I wanted to engage with the exhibition subjectively, from my perspective as a Māori woman and as a Porirua local, declaring and owning all the biases that carries. 

I spent many, many hours writing the ‘Māreikura’ essay and I loved it. I was grateful for the exposure it gave me to mātauranga Māori, new creative writing skills and, most importantly, the Ngāti Toa history that surrounds me everywhere and that, until then, I was pretty ignorant of. I didn’t even try to hide my excitement for the subject matter and my affection for this land that I have come to think of as home. The essay was a mihimihi – it was intended as a celebration and a thanks. 

I took care to position the story in a way that upheld the mana of Ngāti Toa and was accurate according to the kōrero presented on the walls of the exhibition. I did a lot of background reading. My research even led me to the filing cabinets of the local library, and I spent hours filling my kete with stories to help add colour to the facts and details. I wouldn’t say my research was exhaustive, not by any stretch, but it wasn’t cursory either. I gave it my heart and intention. 

But the essay never made it to print. Not because it wasn’t wanted; a well-known magazine was keen to publish it, and the institution that had commissioned it was happy with it, too. As flattering and satisfying as that was, it wasn’t enough. I’d failed to engage the most important subject of the story: the haukainga, Ngāti Toa, the very people to whom the stories I was writing about belonged. 

I’m not a rookie when it comes to kaupapa Māori research. I didn’t go in with a mindset to ‘take’. I know that my responsibility as a writer, especially in non-fiction, is to engage with and think about ownership – no matter how difficult it can be to resolve some of the conflicts that arise. The reasons the essay wasn’t ultimately published are complex and not solely to do with me or anything I specifically did wrong. It’s not necessary to unpack the details here, suffice to say that the decision to pull the article was mine. Even though I cried about it, I knew it was the right call. 


I have attended quite a few writers’ workshops over the years, and whenever there’s a kaupapa Māori theme – whether a speaker or a panel or a masterclass – invariably someone in the room will put up their hand and say something that makes a lot of us groan internally. Usually, the question is some version of ‘I want to write about a Māori character or historical event, how can I do that authentically?’ Let me just say that if you have to ask this question in a Pākehā workshop, you’re probably a long way from the answer. The question itself, though, is a positive sign. It shows that a person is even thinking about ownership in the context of indigenous storytelling, which in itself is progress (hallelujah!). The problem is, I’m not too sure many writers are really willing to engage with the answer. An answer that may be ‘You can’t’, or ‘You shouldn’t.’

I will never forget the words of Maata Wharehoka, one of the kaitiaki of the film Tātarakihi, The Children of Parihaka. In response to a question about storytelling, to a packed audience, she said, ‘People write about Parihaka all the time, but they never come to us, and they never ask us. We are the subject of stories and invisible at the same time.’

I got goosebumps. I had just read an essay by a Pākehā writer that pivoted around Parihaka. It was emotive and stirring; I got all the feels. But something didn’t sit right with me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at the time, but as Maaka spoke, I wondered could it be that the author had never been to Parihaka? Could it be that the subject of the author’s story was invisible?

Just because I’m Māori doesn’t automatically resolve these issues, as my experience writing the ‘Māreikura’ essay shows. Being Māori doesn’t give me the right to tell any Māori story. Whakapapa is not a backstage pass to go wherever I want. Maaka’s words reminded me that ‘Māori’ is really just a descriptor and that iwitanga is really where it’s at. I don’t think Maaka was saying that nobody can write stories unless they inherently ‘belong’ to them, but it reinforces my knowledge that a solid framework for thinking about ownership and kaitiakitanga is imperative. Relationships are key. Interrogating your own reasons, stating them up front and declaring who you are and where you come from is as important on the page as it is in whaikōrero. 

Most of all, it is being willing to accept that you might do all this work, you might have the purist intentions and pour your heart into something, and the answer might still be no. 

As a writer in post-colonial New Zealand, this is all part of the bargain. 

My biggest challenge as I’ve pushed on with my manuscript for Te Papa Tupu has been to work into and through these issues. Some days I’ve felt like I’m walking up Whitireia into a headwind. I’ve had to stop many times to gather the energy to keep going. More than once, I’ve veered off track and had to go back to find the right path. I’m grateful to a few key people who’ve sat with me on the hillside in the dark and the rain and helped me to turn these issues over in my hands like stones pulled from my shoes. People who’ve encouraged me to find a way to keep going and to use these stones to improve my work instead of letting them stall it – to create art from the setbacks. These people have reminded me that tikanga isn’t a set of rules designed to keep us out but a model of thinking and behaving that keeps us safe.

I’ve thought about giving up, not just because it’s hard but because I’ve questioned my right to write. Most often, it’s been the supportive words of friends, all of whom are writers and editors, who’ve reminded me that the fact that it’s hard proves it’s worth it. Pēra i te whakatauki, whaia te iti kahurangi…


Summer is here. The winds have eased and the sun is out and I can finally see the path ahead of me. Yes, it’s a steep incline, but as anyone who’s scrambled hands and knees up Whitireia’s rugged spine knows the effort is worth it. I may have zig-zagged my way this far, and I know the steepest pinch is yet to come, but despite my slow pace and the toughness of the terrain, I haven’t quit.

This too, is part of the bargain. 


Like many New Zealanders, Nadine Anne Hura (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine) has grown up with a foot in two worlds: te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā. She joins Te Papa Tupu eager to work on her manuscript of essays about identity, language and belonging. She has three children and lives in Porirua.

Touring a Nation’s Past

Since June 2010, I have been immersed in reading, writing and talking whakapapa to Te Arawa kaumātua and rangatahi in an effort to make sense of hapū and the connections that bind Te Arawa as a nation. The discovery and renewing of old ties between hapū members has been a thoroughly rewarding and very exciting journey. On the other hand, getting to know the subject matter of Māori warriors has been a constant battle for me as a writer operating within a belief system that ignores the warrior culture as mere folklore. ‘Why?’ is a word I have been living with these past months as I visited the hapū of Te Uru Uenuku Kopako surrounding Lake Rotorua, Reporoa and Maketū, searching for answers.

The rewards have been knowledge and revelation, after meeting tribal members and whanaunga connected in many ways to the history of Maketū. I suddenly realise the ancestral links come with an embracing history, and somehow in this journey of writing a historical account of our warriors both ancient and new, I am feeling like a tourist with an invisible guide.

This morning, I am watching a colony of quail feasting on my lawn. Set apart from the colony is a magnificent male on guard duty and sporting a perfectly tailored feather plume. He need not worry as paw-footed predators dare not walk near my house. In these precious moments, I am thankful my ancestors were magnificent and brave as they have bestowed on me a legacy of life and fierce pride and determination to ensure I protect and fight for the land they left in my care for succeeding generations. Hence, appropriately, this excerpt taken from the introduction to my manuscript is a summary of a Māori philosophical stance on the God of War.

God of War
The God of War is sometimes referred to as Tumatauenga or Tukaaniwha, although Elsdon Best acknowledged various different names used by tribes in reference to this god. For example, he notes that the personification of the ‘war-god Te Rehu o Tainui was a lizard’.
Percy Smith, author of The Māori Wars, said:
‘Uenuku was one of the great man-consuming or War God of Taranaki.’ These three lines from a Moteatea are in reference to the tangi for Taranaki Chief Mokowera, who was shot and murdered by Nga Puhi Chief Rewa:
The war god Tu should feast
The heavens should consume
And also Uenuku
The influence of Tumatauenga can be seen in the dedication of male children to the god through ceremony and protocol involving tohi, pure and karakia. These blessings ensure the child’s well-being physically and mentally, shaping and guiding him towards societal norms. Meticulous use and observance of karakia aim to invoke all the atua to strengthen the bones and shape the child. In explanation of the deep Māori understanding of Tumatauenga, I have included some examples borrowed from various Te Arawa men, both past and present, focusing on the importance and influence of Tumatauenga to mankind.
19th Century Te Arawa Chief Wiremu Maihi Te Rangi Kaheke said:
Na wai i homai? Na te pakanga i homai,
Na te riri i homai. Na nga tangata, i homai.
I homai ki a wai? I homai ki te kikokiko,
Kei te kikokiko
Kei te tini honohono
He Manawa ka
Irihia nei e Tu Matauenga.

E tu ka riri
E tu ka nguha
E tu ka aritarita!
E tu ite korikori
E tu ite wheta
E te ite whaiao
E tu ite ao marama

Translation:
Where did the binding, the strength come from?
It came out of war. It came out of fighting.
It came from the people.
Who was it given to? It was given to flesh. The flesh
The many people bound together
Their spirit is lifted up by Tumatauenga.

Angry Tu, raging Tu,
Burning up inside
Stand firm in the waving
Stand firm in the brandishing
Be established in light
Be established in full day light (MSS.81)

Aspects of reciprocity in association with utu
Utu is a term appropriated to revenge in warfare, explained by Elsdon Best in terms of a ‘sacred duty’ under the ‘aegis’ of Tumatauenga the God of War. In fact, utu has many facets of meanings, and is associated with Tumatauenga in many different ways. In traditional Māori culture, every aspect of nature was acknowledged from childhood to manhood and thus utu can also have positive aspects, as an integral part of a child’s conditioning and tribal teachings: a right which is integrated with tribal history and survival. Another aspect of utu is the custom of koha between manuhiri and tangata whenua. Another aspect is the exchange of children or bloodlines integral to reinforcing a peace agreement made as a result of utu.
The utu of retribution was conducted in several different ways, as the following scenario shows:
In a case regarding ‘a man who mistreated his wife from a neighbouring tribe, the taua muru plundering party of the woman approached her husband’s tribe who lay out taonga as payment for the offence’.
Some waiata, moteatea and names given to children, commemorated different battles and loss of loved ones: this was also indicative of the principles of utu to ensure the events were not forgotten and retribution would follow.
An important role bestowed upon Tumatauenga was negotiating and influencing the seventy gods, including Whiro, the malevolent atua of poautinitini’, to make the first man, Tiki. To alleviate any misunderstandings or confusion concerning Whiro: In the Māori paradigm everything has a balance. The Māori philosophical meaning of Whiro necessitates his role within the realm of deities in the creation of Tiki, who is perceived to have been gathered and formed by the gods.
As an illustration of the influence and importance of Tumatauenga in our lives, I include an excerpt from a Tauparapara often used by Rangiwewehi Rangatira Tohunga Mita Mohi before he begins his whaikorero:
Te ingoa o to tupuna o Tu,
Tu whakaheke tangata
Ki raro, kia Tawhaki.
Translation:
The names of your ancestor Tu
Whose blood travels through the descendants
To Tawhaki.
Note: All tribes can lay claim to Tawhaki as an ancestor. His name originates from Hawaii.

Twentieth-century warfare and Māori
During World War One and World War Two, Māori volunteered for service overseas with a sense of adventure and to see the world. In terms of utu in a modern context of war of attrition, Māori soldiers sought to restore a global balance of peace and justice.

__________________________________________________________

[1] Elsdon Best, The Māori As He Was, Wellington: National Museum, 1974, 167.

[2] Wiremu Maihi Te Rangikaheke was born in 1815. He was a Te Arawa Chief of Ngāti Kereru hapū affiliated to Ngāti Rangiwewehi. He is the author of the manuscripts in Governor Grey’s New Zealand Māori Manuscript Collection.

[3] Elsdon Best, 167.

[4] Telephone interview with Eru Biddle, Tūhoe, Māori Studies, Waiariki Institute, Rotorua, 11 November 2010.

[5] Interviews with Pat Mohi, Rangiwewehe,  November 2010. Telephone interview with Eru Biddle.

Hunting for Truth in History

Writing a true account of history is no easy task. Bias and perceptions may influence the story and, to some extent, can change the historical record. Unfortunately, this bias will sometimes be replicated and assume a place in history as fact. As a researcher, I look for several references to an account of an event. I enjoy the hunt for information and finding new evidence to an event is always a relief.

Essentially, the information sought by a writer of history exists in landscapes, memories and literature. The difficult task is providing a fresh approach and using new information to inform a description of a historical event. In my experience of researching past events and people, the gathering of information can be an endless task. At some point, the research stops, and the hard work of writing up the findings begins. Importantly, a filing system of documents and notes gathered saves precious time for references as losing vital information to a sequence of work is frustrating and time-consuming.

The activity of writing is the moment when all is revealed. In my case, I have learned from experience the value of structure or a clear outline for a historical account of an event. In this instance, I consider myself very fortunate to have a very erudite and experienced mentor, Daisy Coles, who has impressed on me the importance of a progress spreadsheet and organiser to assist me in achieving my goals. The spreadsheet also works as a tool to help me focus on the manuscript’s content and what I need to do to achieve outcomes for each chapter. My sincere thanks to the Huia Publishers staff for this opportunity to write an important account of history featuring brave and courageous men and women.

The following is an account of World War Two that threatened to change our society with devastating consequences worldwide. Essentially, some events of World War Two are constantly changing as new evidence is uncovered and old perceptions of World War Two are interestingly challenged. I have chosen to share some of my research concerning the Nazi ideology of women. There is nothing new in my account as I used references to compile my evidence and thus gain an understanding of German women’s society in the 1930s.[1] [2]

During Adolf Hitler’s rise to political power in the 1930s and the increasing influence of the Nazi Party in German society, the aspirations and dreams of higher education and individuality in German women’s society were eroded away by the formulation of the Nazi ideology of women. In the 1930s, German women were compelled to study domestic science. Physics, foreign languages and science were the subjects for men alone.

The women in Nazi Germany were encouraged to become childbearers, and to achieve this, they were forced to maintain physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Hitler introduced incentives to produce babies by giving women public recognition in the form of honour and medals. Young couples were also given government money to start a family. The breeding programme included a medical examination ensuring a clean bill of health for the woman and a system of selecting male breeding partners from Hitler’s military ranks, the Shutz Staffel (SS)[3] and generals. Hitler’s grand plan for Germany included increasing the German population, and underpinning the breeding programme was his desire to build a large army and thereby achieve world domination.[4]

A ban on cosmetics and nail polish was a restriction introduced to further suppress German women’s individuality. The Nazi government had adopted a campaign against cosmetics and make-up in World War One. This ban was extended to include French and United States women’s fashions.  Mothers in the SS were forbidden to wear make-up and nail polish, and women who did so were publically ridiculed. The Nazi theory of the ideal woman was a peasant wife devoted to work on the land and caring for her family. Women in the Nazi Party were encouraged to devote their time to working for Hitler and the Party as helpmates. Hitler’s innate theory of men as leaders in management jobs and public affairs further confined Nazi women to the home and reduced their position in society as second-class citizens of the Third Reich.[5]

Hitler enjoyed public forums where he could speak to the multitudes and promote his ideals for a greater German society. On 8 September 1934, Hitler addressed the National Social Women’s League[6] convention informing the members present of his plan for women:

 ‘… the women must be a complement to man, so that they can prevail as real fighters before our Volk and for our Volk with our sights set on the future … the two sexes will traverse this life fighting together, hand in hand fulfilling Providence: … the blessing of the Almighty will rest upon their joint struggle for life.’

Whilst he acknowledged the leadership role of women in the National Socialist Movement, he also reminded the women that ‘there were innumerable women who remained unshakeably loyal to the Movement and to me'[7].  Hitler’s determination to increase the population of Germany through childbearing was paramount, and through his speech, he exhorted the women to focus on his agenda and on a ‘single item and this is the child, this tiny creature who must come into being and flourish, who constitutes the sole purpose of the entire struggle for existence’.

It is probable that Hitler directly assisted in the formulation of the Nazi ideology of women although he claimed that this stemmed from the concepts of Nature and Providence. Hitler placed importance and value on the idea that German women (who were of Nature) contributed to German society in helping the men (who were of Providence) achieve their objective. The differences between the sexes guided the roles that they played in society. In reality, these ideals did nothing but take away the individuality and freedom of thought of German women and thus subordinate and demoralise them, condemning them to the tenet that by her nature the woman was home merely to the power of feelings and the power of the soul.[8] In Hitler’s philosophy the man was home to the power of recognition, the power of toughness, of resolution and of fighting morale; man strove for heroic courage on the battlefield, and woman was there to give eternally patient devotion, suffering and endurance.

In effect, Hitler’s ideology of women reflected his inability to see women in diverse roles. It is probable that Hitler may have based his ideas on gender roles from the philosopher Rousseau’s “But for her sex …” the Domestication of Sophie,which presented a model of ‘Emile’ (man) as soldier, public office holder and landowner and ‘Sophie’ (woman) as protector of moral values and educational practices, confined to the home.[9]

Personally, I have found that education is a perpetual learning experience. The human brain is like a microcosm of the universe that is forever growing and creating new stars of knowledge.

World War Two and winning the war through the sacrifice of our parents’ and grandparents’ lives has given us the freedom to shape our individual destinies – and let’s not forget the liberty that contemporary German women enjoy beside us.

 

 

 


[1] URL: www.educationforum.co.uk. Retrieved from the Internet, 16/8/10.

[2] Lawrence Rees, BAFTA-winning BBC TV series, The Nazis: A Warning from History. London: BBC Worldwide Limited, 1997.

[3] Shutz means defense, and Staffel means echelon: Hitler’s SS was an elite private army and secret service. W L  Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History Of Nazi Germany. England: Book Club Associates, 1960, 120–121.

[4] Martin Kitchen, Nazi Germany At War. London: Longman, 1995, 142, 143–144.

[5] Third Reich was Nazi Germany 1933–1945.

[6] Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft: W L Shirer, 1960, 120–121.

[7] M Damarus, Hitler: Speeches and Proclamations 1932–1945. London: I B Taurus, 1990, vol, 1, 531–535. [Bismarck readings 148–331], 531.

[8] Kitchen, Nazi Germany At War, 1995, 136.

[9]  Excerpt from Jim MacAdam, Michael Neumann and Guy LaFrance (eds), Trent Rousseau Papers, 1 35–45. “But for Her Sex …”: the Domestication of Sophie.