Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Jim Sinclair x 12 Eyes Creatives

Here is a video of Jim Sinclair someone striving to do good things for Otara. The video is my first time editing from live footage which I filmed just two days ago. Its starts off slow but he drops some really solid information about the history of Otara and the state of things in NZ so check it out.

Otara has a median income of $25,000 annually rising only three percent over the past 15 years. Whereas in places like St Heliers the median income have risen up to 30% to around $53,000 a year. If you’re having trouble believing that; you can see the gap between the rich and poor by taking a four stage bus from Otara to Ponsonby...

If you look deep into the history of New Zealand you will see how organizing of people was always based on class and race. Polynesian and Maori peoples were brought in because elite NZ wanted them to lend a hand to do the cheap labour in which the country still depends. Where they went was dependent on what jobs the elite offered them and as time progressed the elite guided them away from the city centre to the south by building factories for them to work in out there. That is why most Polynesians come to south Auckland because they are manipulated into thinking that these are the only jobs they can do.

Supported by the government the elite funded anything that could add to the squeaky clean image of New Zealand being this diverse place while hiding the truth: that there are many impoverished areas like Otara that aren’t being given the development attention they need. Because if Otara does develop too much, the people living and working those slave labour jobs, will realise they can do so much more with their lives. They will become better than the elite which the elite obviously don’t want. Therefore the ghetto mentality is enforced by the media and development is neglected in these areas to keep the system running smoothly.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Return Migration

“An empty sack can’t stand.” LagiholoTuhega.

  Urbanization brought the people of the pacific to the cities of colonialized nations with the notion that life was better and there were more opportunities in the wealthier countries. What they didn't realize at the time was that because so many people moved to the city, their homelands ended up suffering. 

My grandfather was one of many Niueans who migrated to New Zealand in the early 20th century. He was from a small island called Niue commonly called the Rock of Polynesia. 

  Lagiholo Tuhega was born in Niue on the 9th of January 1927 and was the eldest of seventeen children. His mother Sisimata was Niuean and his father Kaifofo was half German and half Niuean. They managed their own store in Niue and his father was also a well-known tailor and boxing champ in Niue.

  He attended a Niuean residential school until he was 15, which was the end of ones school days back then. This was unusual as many Niueans around that time did not have proper schooling. He then worked at a hospital as a medical student but could not stand the blood, so he then trained as an infant school teacher. On the 13th of March 1944 at just 17 years old his parents put him on the Maui Pomare ship and sent him to Aotearoa.

  In New Zealand he worked as a blacksmith, saw miller, a shoe maker, bushman and steel metal worker. Life was far from easy back then, but the Niueans worked hard and together built or bought their own houses and paid for their community halls and churches.

  Papa was well read and had learnt the British ways of law and politics, industry and economic life, and during his life in New Zealand bought three homes and sold them all before going back to Niue. He wrote for newspapers and books about issues relating to land tenure in Niue and life for Pacific Islanders in New Zealand.

  In one article he said: "Many Niuean people in New Zealand would suffer great difficulties if it were not for the Church, Maori Affairs Department and help from earlier Niuean settlers. Social handicaps lead to a great waste of manpower, especially when the younger people get themselves into trouble with the police in their new-found land. No matter how much our church leaders warn them in the church services and social gatherings, weakness and sins generated in the metropolitan power are too great it seems. Countless youths of their school age were under welfare care. How these people will turn out in the future I'll never know."
 It was clear that Papa Lagi was a man who had real concerns regarding his people, the land and their future well-being.

  He met my grandmother Polly Tauhore Reid while he was in hospital. Nana was a nurse at the hospital and Papa was working in the forestry industry on the East coast. She is from Ngati Porou with European ancestry as well. They had 11 children together. There were 6 sons and 5 daughters with my mother being the second youngest of the lot. He believed education was very important for his kids and they attended some of the best schools New Zealand had like Auckland boys Grammer.

  In 1963 the Niue Government had made moves to introduce new land legislation in Niue which meant there was a chance New Zealand Niueans may lose their land and thus their identity as Niueans. A committee was formed, chairman and officers were elected, and an organisation called the Niue (New Zealand) Society was born.

  In 1964 selected delegates from the Niue (New Zealand) Society were invited to the Legislative Assembly meeting in Niue. They were selected by the New Zealand Niuean people who were angry about the chance of losing their land rights. Papa Lagi was appointed leader of the three member delegation and was accompanied by Professor Aikman (Constitutional Advisor) and Mr Jock McEwen (Secretary for Maori and Island Affairs).

  It was the first time Papa had been back to the island for 20 years and the experience had a profound impact on him. From the start his fellow members in the delegation adopted a very defensive attitude, but because of his time working in the land, farming and forestry industry in New Zealand he saw things alot differently.

  The controversial topic was the twenty year absentee landowner's clause which was to eliminate land rights of those living overseas for long periods. He could see that the Niuean Government were trying to utilize the land to bring about progress on the island which would improve the standard of living, but the other New Zealand Niueans who did nothing with their land, just wanted Niue to stay the way it was. He was sympathetic towards development of Niue.

  After one month on Niue discussing these issues, the Niuean Government said they will squash the draft proposals. Papa and the other members returned by ship to Auckland via Pago Pago, Apia and Suva with tickets paid for by the Niuean Government who he mentioned, treated them with terrific hospitality. 

  On arrival in New Zealand a meeting was called in Auckland as the people were eager to know the outcome of the Legislative Assembly meeting. In his own words he wrote: "True to the past, the coconut wireless had already got home unreal stories."
  People questioned why he did not follow the other two and he was called a coward because he chose to listen to the people in Niue.

  After ten years these people who criticized him eventually came around when they saw how under developed there land was. Luckily for them the government had developed some of their land but still most of it remained idle and useless. Negotiations continued without Papa as he decided to move back down to Nana's land with the whanau on the East Coast near Gisborne for a few years.

  He returned to Auckland in 1970 and then went back to Niue for a 4 week visit when the airport came into operation. Although he was still participating in some of the Society's activities he wasn't as close as in previous years. He was now planning on saving money to return to Niue to live.

  In 1974 Niue became a self-governing nation and during this time it saw a large number of Niueans move away. Papa thought it was because of uncertainty regarding the political future of the country. But it does seem to coincide with the big migrations from the other islands which had been happening over the last twenty years.

  At the same time the expats had concerns regarding adapting to the metropolitan way of life in New Zealand. He spoke of some of the changes and the uncertainty of acceptance in New Zealand and the economic pressures Niueans faced during the seventies. Adding to that was the constant hounding of newspapers about social misfits which reflected unfairly on the law-abiding Niueans.

  In 1974 Papa was one of the few New Zealand Niueans who decided to return to Niue. He brought for the first time his wife and their five youngest children including my mum. On returning he prepared his land for surveyors so that he could register the land. This would enable him to get a government loan to set himself up. This was not only for the family’s security but it would also stop other relatives from claiming our land.

  The people welcomed him with open arms but it wasn't always easy because some had objections to him getting the land he was born to. Eventually he got the land and the loan, and was able to build the house which remains there to this day.

  In 1975 Papa was employed by the Niuean Government as the Public Works Department Sawmill Overseer until his retirement at age 60. During his ten years in Niue from 1975 to 1985 he built a house for us to use as a family base and planted over a hundred coconut trees and improved the property.

  While working for the government he negotiated timber land leases; formed new roads to the five logging areas; planted over 10,000 exotic trees; was involved in the survey of 64,000 acres of land and after the tragic hurricane in 1980 he supplied over 500 mahogany logs to the government for lost canoes.

  He returned to New Zealand in 1985 because he was sick and needed a kidney transplant. He couldn’t get one but had to remain in New Zealand because he was on dialysis treatment for his remaining years.

  His final years were very sad, this was partly because he had been such a strong man all his life and when he got sick it meant he couldn't go back to his homeland and live the way he wanted.

  Papa passed away in 1995. His children took him back to Niue and according to his wishes he was buried on the front lawn of the home he built for the family.

  All our family either went to New Zealand or settled in Australia. The land is now looked after by my mum’s cousin and the house is rented out to anyone wishing to stay there.

   Now though it is a lot easier than ever to live a comfortable laid back life over there and still be a part of the rest of the world largely due to the introduction of the internet to the island. Niue is the first Wi-Fi nation ever in the whole wide world, with free wireless internet across the entire country. For some people who rely on the internet for finding and delivering work this can be a huge incentive to move back to the island once more.

   In Niue as of 2011 it is said to have a population of about 1,300 but some believe that is a lie and there may be under a thousand left. However there are over 40,000 Niueans living overseas with most of them living in Auckland.

   This is still a dangerously low amount of people and so there is a strong concern that Niue will become a ghost island. So for future generations who might wish to move back and live a more natural life, one needs to seriously think is living in larger wealthy nations really worth losing your culture and your identity? After all happiness is a state of mind so will the ‘all about the benjamins’ attitude to life really make you happy?

   Papa was very disappointed that he couldn't go back to live in his beloved Niue. There was so much more he would have liked to have done to help bring about a stronger economy for Niue. Now it is our turn to go back there and help bring progress and development to the small island nation.

  For urban Polynesian people being raised only knowing the metropolitan way of life they may have occasionally felt somewhat out of place in their urban surroundings and if so should really think about migrating back to Niue, not just to learn about the culture and see the uniquely beautiful environment, but also to appreciate what people like my grandfather did for us.

   With the everyday struggles of the metropolitan lifestyle, being in a demanding environment working for pennies and being judged unfairly because of the colour of your skin, what better way is there to spend your life than on an island paradise like the Rock of Polynesia? Niue.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The caregiver

A tribute to my father who would be 60 today.

  Ngataiawa Te Whata or Tom was born on the 15 of January 1953 in a hospital in Te Kopuru just out of Dargaville. He is from Ngai tu a sub tribe of Nga Puhi from the Hokianga area. He was the seventh of twelve children to his parents Utu and Hireki Te Whata. He was given to his Auntie as a baby to be raised by her, due to there being too many kids for the parents to look after; but his Auntie died a few years later and he was sent back. 

  Dad’s childhood was typical for Maori in rural areas. They had to be creative and make up their own fun because they weren’t wealthy enough to buy toys. They all learnt to ride horses as usual and if they were too small to ride real horses they would make rocking horses. They’d find a fallen tree trunk that looked like a horse back and then put a saddle on it which was really a sack. They would cut two holes in the sack for their feet and then grab the branches and bounce on it like a horse. He’d pretend small bottles were cars and big bottles were buses and he use to make his own boats from flax. It was all about imagination back then and making fun with what they had. Sometimes they’d make really good bows and arrows and play cowboys and Indians with them, although everybody wanted to be Indians. No one wanted to be cowboys. 

   Dad went to Aranga Primary School then he moved with the family to Dargaville and went to Dargaville primary, intermediate and Dargaville College. He said he was top of the class in standard 4 at Aranga. He remembered the only teachers at Aranga were a husband and wife but they were cruel to some pupils. They liked to try and be their parents by smacking when they felt like it because they didn’t have a smacking law then.

   The law to stop Maori kids from speaking Maori was way before Dad’s time. By the time he went to school no one could even speak Maori… not at this school anyhow because they were more colonized in the Hokianga. That’s one of the main gateways of where the settlers came in and they got rid of Maori language there when his dad was at school. Dad left school hallway through the fifth form because there was too many of his siblings in school and not enough money. So when he left school he went to work with his dad for a while clearing roads and bushes, and then moved onto fixing bridges… It was a good job to him.

   When he was still at school the Maori Affairs came up and asked if any one of the students wanted to go down to Auckland to learn a trade. So they all had to fill out papers. Some of them got picked, some of them missed out; mainly if they were in dire straits like having too many in the family. So he joined the Maori Affairs. Then he carried on working until the following year when he went down to Auckland to try and learn a trade. Dad was around sixteen or seventeen when he first moved to Auckland. He stayed in a Christian hostel in Gilly Ave in New Market with other Maori boys. But New Market was not as flash as it is now. That only began to happen after the Maori and Polynesians left.

   He worked as a blacksmith standing by a fire all day forging metal parts on and off for about 19 years. Over that time he had left, fought back and was sacked for pinching. Although he claimed he was set up. He never enjoyed the job but the people that worked with him all came from the same background so they were like one big family. They would go to the pub a lot and go to the movies on Sunday just to avoid going to church. Eventually they had to leave so with ten of his mates they left the hostel and flatted in Kingsland.

   He split with his friends for a while when he met his first wife in Auckland. She was 16 and he was 19. It didn’t take long for them to have a baby and so they moved back up north to Dargaville where they got married and he got a job. He had to work that day too but his bosses let him off early so that he could get there. They got married at a park and had his honeymoon at his parent’s house where they were living at the time. Then he was back to work the next day. They were together for 8 months but he was too young and wasn’t ready for marriage so after breaking up with his first wife Dad was by then in his early twenties and looking for a change, so he joined the army and spent five years training. He was supposed to go to Papua New Guinea where a war was going on but the army decided it was too dangerous. After that Dad began to lose interest and because of a lack of discipline got himself kicked out. After that he went back to his old job and his old mates.

   He met his second wife (my Mumzies :) who was friends with one of his sisters when he was 28. They were good friends before they got married and even flatted together. They decided to get married when she was about 8 months pregnant. Things went quite fast and when I was born it was a struggle for them. After his third child with mum they moved back up north to Dargaville to give us kids a better life out of the city. After living up north for about four years Dad decided to look for work back in Auckland. When he found a job he sent for the family to come up too. We continued to move every few months mainly around Avondale until he found a place to settle in Waterview. Financially it was tough with Dad finding only factory work making knives or fixing washing machines and Mum going back to university but he still managed to be a really good father to us. I remember in primary school I really wanted to have duraseal on my school books but we couldn't afford it so he would wrap my school books up in wallpaper material and draw little cartoon characters all over it. He had many talents from art to music to sport and best of all he handed his talents down to us.

   When I was growing up Dad was always looking for something to get us kids into. He put me into rugby league when I was about six years old and took it one step further by becoming the coach. He continued to coach for about five years and got a lot of the neighborhood kids involved too. He won coach of the year numerous times. He also got me into softball during the summer which I played up until I was about 19. Along with that he taught me how to play the guitar and also got me into athletics and tae kwon do. Even though he could be a little heavy handed, he was always there to support me and push me to achieve something in life.

   During high school a lot of changes happened. After 6 years of studying Mum graduated Law school and by that time their marriage began to break down. They continued to live together but the dramas were at an all time high, which resulted in us kids going a bit wayward, so when I was about 16 they split, although they never got a divorce. I lived with him most of the time while at animation school and my sisters lived with my mum. The family remained close with him and even my mothers family were still close with him. When my niece was born things only got better. 
   With my career he was the one that supported me in following my passions the most, and he always reminded me that I was given opportunities that he never had, and that I should take them not just for myself, but also for him. He would tell everyone every thing I was doing with my career and how proud he was. When he was about 50 he also got back into painting and had a few exhibitions. Getting back into art was the best thing he did for himself and could've made a career in it but he never wanted to sell his art, only to give it to people he loved.
Opononi Dad's Painting of his homelands

   Eventually he had a career change and left his factory job to become a caregiver for disabled people. He had to feed them, wash them and just keep them company. He found a real deep satisfaction in this line of work and was always willing to help even if they didn't have the money to pay. He was like family to his clients and they were family to him too. He enjoyed driving them around places and if they were not from NZ he would take them up to his ancestral homelands to see where he was raised.

  One of the hardest parts of his job was watching his clients that he had cared for for years pass on and last year before his death, he lost quite a few people he had cared for as well as his brother Joe. He had time for everyone and was always there when he was needed. He cared for others more than he cared for himself and eventually it all caught up with him and before we knew it he was gone. Ironically he died on the birthday of his other brother who died in 2010 so I could imagine Dad crashing the party with a big "Surprise!" And Uncle Sid being like "Eh what you doing up here bro?!" and Dad being like "Happy Birthday brother!"

  Happy Birthday Dad xox


Friday, January 4, 2013

Keeping it real

We all love to go swimming at the beach. Some people like to go fishing or diving off the rocks, some people like to lie on the beach and people watch, just like our parents did when they were young and just like there parents probably did too. So its only fair that the next generations should be able to have those experiences too. But that might not be the case.

The East coast have got the drillers in the waters, and my kainga in south Auckland could be next. There’s an area that runs from Manukau heads to the Cape. The government have now taken bids for drilling prospecting for most of the west side of the north island and will announce soon. Some high risk of earthquakes areas around the south island have been looked at as possible drilling areas too. If we don’t take action to protect our land we could see, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and oil spilling out onto our beaches way worse than the rena spill last year.

Whats happening now with drilling is a lot like what happened on Avatar. The imperialist humans have depleted Earths natural resources and now are trying to mine the precious minerals of the Navi people. New Zealand is like Pandora, clean and green, we are like the Navi people and you can guess who the drillers are. 

It's happened all over the world, but we have a treaty that protects us from this. How? Section 9 of the State Owned Enterprises Act states that: “Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi." Without the treaty of Waitangi, New Zealands state owned assets and the land they sit on can be sold off to foreign interests, which is one reason why the government are trying to get rid of it or tweek it to their benefit.

Oil is like blood. The earths blood or the whales. It has been used for thousands of years right back to the babylonian days. But not like how we've been using it lately. Money has poisoned mankind and turned us into oil sucking vampires. A few hundred years ago we almost brought the whale to extinction hunting them for their oil and for over a hundred years we've relied on drilling the Earth's oil for almost everything. From the petrol in our cars to the ink in our pens even for the strings on our guitars.

But we are now at a turning point in our oil history. Experts say it took 50-300 million years to form, and yet we have managed to burn roughly half of all global oil reserves in the last century. That means that it will become harder to retrieve oil and so the prices will keep rising and the oil rigs will keep growing and digging deeper and deeper destroying everything around it as it goes. Then they will start trying to bring in more high risk ways of raping the land including gas extraction such as Hydraulic fracturing or "Fracking"

Fracking is also a new type of drilling for oil and gases that’s secretly hit our shores. Many people have been protesting against it, but there are already areas in New Zealand like the Taranaki basin and Raukumara basin that have been drilled with over 350 exploration wells drilled to date. There are thousand of chemicals that end up contaminating the water even making the tap water flammable.
We have seen what happened in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago and the Rena spill last year and how much of a balls up that was. These should be enough to tell us that we are all on the same waka(boat) so we have to look after each other and the waka. So if our leaders want to spoil our land and poison our people with deep sea drilling then screw peaceful protest let us unite and fight in the name of Eywa to keep the greedy old overlords in their place and take whatever other action necessary to protect our beautiful land.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Writing the wrongs of our forefathers

Is it important for writers to have a strong sense of nationalism and culture in their published work? As a writer this question has been in my mind for sometime now. Here are my thoughts on the subject:
The job of the creative writer.

Creative writing to me is a tool. Just like any art form from poetry, to painting, to film, to anything. It is a tool, which allows me to be creative. To express whatever I have going on in my brain. My argument is centered on this point.  That I believe creative writing should be about communicating, entertaining, sharing ideas and my point of view in the most artistic way. Therefore to have a strong sense of nationalism and culture should not be the main focus of being a writer.
There seems to be a rule in New Zealand Educational Institutions that as a New Zealand writer, we must write with a strong sense of nationalism or else it has no value. We must write to show the world what a New Zealander is. But if we want to write with our imaginations about a fictional world with no nationalistic agenda we are somehow doing the wrong thing. On top of that we must write in common form such as novel or poetry and if you want to tell a story in any other form such as comic book then that’s not the way of the “NZ writer”. These are only examples and are not always the case but this shows the hierarchy in the genres of creative writing which is being taught by closed minded academics in certain educational systems. When a teacher tries to tell their students what they must write about, that is when the teacher has lost focus on what their job is. It is to teach ways to write, not what to write. We are storyteller’s not cultural ambassadors out to right the wrongs of colonization. Although that is a good way to be, it’s not for me. This pressure or control from our mentors to follow their way of thinking alienates a whole new generation of writers and the ideas they wish to express. By doing this it also alienates a whole generation or would be readers who don’t connect with much New Zealand literature on offer at the moment.

The development of Nationalism in New Zealand and the circumstances upholding it.
New Zealand literature began during the 19th century by mainly British migrants and settlers. It was essentially a sub-type of English literature dealing with topics coinciding with English literature but also dealing with New Zealand themes or places. The subjects they covered in the early days of colonial New Zealand were structured around the needs of the British settlers to enforce their ideologies on the native Maori and Pakeha alike. Maori had stories and poetry but they were told orally or through art so what they had to say was disregarded because they had no written form of language. 
Some of the literature first introduced in New Zealand was:
  • ·        for the church spreading religious values and beliefs
  • ·        for establishing the laws and order of New Zealand
  • ·        for governance of the people and the land
  • ·        for the mapping out and naming of the country
  • ·        Provincial and rural literature
These were early examples of nationalistic writing for people of British descent. It wasn’t until the 1950s that New Zealand writers began writing creatively in a nationalistic way. “This flowering of creative and critical talent was not sudden, but the climax of a process that had begun at least two decades before.” (1)
It is clear to see that nationalism and identity formation in New Zealand was more of a political process created in times of racial conflict and oppression.
The 1930s heralded in a new age of New Zealand identity narratives, due to creative writing becoming an educational focus in universities as well as more opportunities to get work published in magazines and journals. Many of these writers were also tackling global, social and political issues expressing ideas of resistance that went against the established views of Pakeha who still looked to England as home. Following a reworking of university education in the post-war era, creative writing has progressively gained prominence in the university setting.
By the 1960s Maori creative writers came onto the scene and they brought fresh ideas and perspectives not yet seen; predominantly to write stories of Maori by Maori.  This was to counter the effects of colonialism and to give Maori a voice in the literary world. They wrote of identity relaying experiences of Maori with elements such as:
  • ·        Tradition
  • ·        Culture
  • ·        History
  • ·        Mythology
  • ·        Urbanisation
From this we can see how New Zealand identity has been developing over different periods which are due to changes in political conditions and paradigms of the nation.

Nationalism as a paradigm that promotes the nation above all else sacrificing the needs and desires of the individual. 

  Nationalism in creative writing is about identifying a culture or nation to promote that nation. This helps people of that nation make sense of their ethnic identity as well as for the wider world to have a better understanding or image of the nation. It’s about a common human need to belong to a group and relating or differentiating from others. “At its most basic, it gives you a sense of personal location, the stable core to your individuality. But it is also about your social relationships, your complex involvement with others” (Weeks, 1990, p.88).

Being of mixed ethnicity can raise many issues when writing with a strong sense of nationalism and culture. The stories they tell are no longer just theirs. They belong to the people of that ethnic mass as well. Being from an urban working class background with not much connection with the history or culture of the ethnicities we belong to raises even more questions of authenticity. How New Zealand are you? How Maori are you? How Polynesian are you? These become labels with a lot of ethnic baggage that we have to think about if we want to write with a strong sense of nationality. Whether we look at identity through a personal or collective framework we can see that our identity has been shaped by our historical grievances.

 In the end there is a place for nationalistic literature and teaching but don’t put that on me as a creative writer and don't hate because I prefer to go against cultural dynamics of this time by doing something that hasn’t been done before.

Weeks, J. (1990). The Value of Difference. In J. Rutherford (ed.). Identity, Community , Cultural Difference, London: Lawrence and Wishart.