WORD Christchurch: Manly As, with Dominic Hoey, Omar Musa and Chris Tse

What does it mean to be ‘manly as’? Jarrod Gilbert led Dominic Hoey, Omar Musa, and Chris Tse in a discussion on masculinity and their work, trying to unpick this tricky question. As we discovered, it’s not a question that’s easily answered. But a great conversation was had, and it left the audience with a lot to think about.

Courtesy of the WORD Chch twitter stream

An audience member at the end of this session suggested that perhaps rather than talking about masculinity in the singular, we need to think of masculinities. Of multiple ways of being. The three panelists were a great example of this, each displaying his own concept of masculinity, and each exploring masculinity in different ways in their work and in their lives.

Australian Omar Musa did a great job reminding us that intersectionality isn’t a word that is restricted to feminism, as it was coined for. He brought into discussion things such as race, religion, class, and economics. He spoke thoughtfully about a broad spectrum of topics, coming out with such comments as: ‘Something like gangster rap comes from Reagan era, Reaganomics…that’s not to excuse misogyny against women, but it doesn’t come from nowhere.’ And: ‘I’m asian australian but I’m also muslim australian. Asian men were almost desexualised in Australia. [My choice was] between being asexual or violently sexual.’

Auckland poet, writer and musician Dominic Hoey complimented Musa’s sentiments well. When asked whether he feels positive about masculinity in 2018 Hoey answered: ‘At least these conversations are happening and people are talking about feminism, but it’s hard under capitalism, someone’s always gonna be at the bottom.’ Hoey does a lot of work with youth in Auckland, and his challenge with boys and young men is “trying to explain to them how patriarchy is fucking them as well.” In his debut novel Iceland, Hoey has written a main character who is hypermasculine and violent. This was a deliberate act. ‘I wanted to show how he came to that point.’

Image from Chris Tse’s twitter

Wellington poet Chris Tse, resplendent in a floral romper, talked a lot about masculinity in the gay community. ‘What’s held up as the gold standard of masculinity in the gay community is a super buff white man.’

On discussions like Manly As? Tse comments ‘I think we are naive to think there’s a point, a nirvana, where none of this matters any more.’ A realist, Tse hopes for things to be at least ‘a little bit less shit.’ He sees his latest collection, He’s So MASC, as a contribution towards this goal: ‘Writing this book and just being who I am is hopefully helping other people.’

Manly As? showed that we cannot afford to keep our heads in the sand on these topics. As Musa said, ‘These things – masculinity, femininity, testosterone – they affect our lives whether we like it or not.’ Toxic masculinity and the patriarchy does very real harm to our societies, our communities. When asked by Gilbert what the goal is, Musa responded, to applause, ‘I’d just like to live in an Australia where two women a week don’t die at the hands of men.’

Reviewed by Gem Wilder

WORD Christchurch: Black Marks on the White Page: A Roundtable

Black Marks on the White Page: A Roundtable

One of the great things about festivals like WORD is that you not only get to hear from your favourite writers, you sometimes also get to sit in discussion with them, to learn from them in workshops and masterclasses. The Black Marks on the White Page roundtable was a session like this, a chance to hear from the experienced contributors to the book, but also to sit in conversation with other Māori and Pasifika writers.

Co-editor of the anthology, Tina Makereti, introduced the session as a talanoa. I am going to borrow from BMOTWP contributor Jione Havea to describe talanoa: ‘For the sake of ones who do not understand the lingo, ‘talanoa’ is a word used in several (but not all) Pasifika languages; it refers to the (three in one) triad of story, telling and conversation.’ This roundtable session definitely lived up to this definition of talanoa.

First up: story. We heard from Makereti, Nic Low, Paula Morris and Victor Rodger. Each discussed their thoughts on Black Marks on the White Page and what it meant to contribute to it. Makereti talked about the process of collaborating with co-editor Witi Ihimaera, who she described as having ‘big visions.’ Morris describes the anthology as ‘subversive.’ She says of the book, and its impact ‘We’re reshaping the Pacific.’

Rodger carried on with this train of thought: ‘Spectrum is a word I use a lot of. For a lot of people it means quite a narrow thing, but for me there’s a huge spectrum [of Pasifika experience].’ Low expanded on this, explaining that what has been expected of people generationally being put in the box of ‘Maori writer’ or ‘Pasifika writer’ has been restrictive. ‘We have global perspectives. The boxes that we’ve all been put in are totally artificial.’

Low and Rodger then read excerpts from their pieces in the anthology, both captivating and amusing tales, subversive and witty.

Telling. The second part of the roundtable session consisted of three short writing exercises. Low’s was to do with the context of our writing. He described it as ‘useful for honing in on your subject matter,’ which it really was. Rodger’s exercise was plot focused, and Morris focused on characters. With these three short exercises under our belts we came out more equipped and enthusiastic to get stuck into our own writing projects.

Conversation. After working through the exercises the talanoa moved on to more open conversation, the asking of questions and the sharing of ideas. As is typical of many talanoa, the session carried on well past it’s scheduled time slot. Long may these talanoa continue, and carry on throughout our communities.

Reviewed by Gem Wilder

Nic Low will be part of Nerd Degree on Sunday
Paula Morris is in Mortification at 5.30pm Saturday
Paula Morris introduces Go YA at 11.30am Sunday

 

WORD Christchurch: Starry, Starry Night

WORD Christchurch: Starry, Starry Night

‘What a nice guy!’ Poet Hollie McNish exclaimed of host John Campbell as she took the stage. Campbell was in his usual fine form, gushing over each of the gala night’s participants, generating excitement for who and what we were about to see. He picked up the festival’s theme of adventure, and wove together his introduction, equally generous in his praise of each of the seven storytellers, poets, writers, activists, and filmmakers.

Starry-Night

First to take the stage was Joseph Hullen, a Ngāi Tahu storyteller. Hullen was a perfect choice to ground the proceedings, a local who talked of the increased visibility of his iwi and their story in post-quake Ōtautahi.

Next up was Scottish poet Robin Robertson, who read grim poems that captivated the audience. Robertson has been blessed with the kind of voice you could easily listen to for hours, slow and deep, with just the right amount of gravel. He dedicated his final poem to programme director Rachael King, who has brought all of these seemingly discordant writers to her city and bound them together in the epic event that is WORD.

Documentary filmmaker and author Yaba Badoe (Ghana/UK) read the first chapter of her book A Jigssaw of Fire and Stars. The story told of haunting dreams, of a perilous sea journey that ended in destruction, of hope lost, and histories that replay over and over, demanding to be heard.

Hollie McNish announced she was going to read two poems about the most adventurous person she knows – her daughter. They were poems full of love, fear, anger and hope. She then read her poem ‘Polite’ as mentioned by Campbell in his introduction, a hilarious yet poignant tale about a teenager giving her boyfriend a blow job.

Wellington novelist by way of India via Canada, Rajorshi Chakraborti, talked of his latest book, The Man Who Would Not See. He told the tale of researching the personal family story that was the basis for the book. Intended as a work of non-fiction, Chakraborti’s investigations changed the course of his family’s story, meaning he had to switch forms and instead write a novel.

Following Chakraborti, UK author Philip Hoare read two short sections from RisingTideFallingStar. The first told a tale of rotting deer carcass, brutal in its descriptions of the natural world, but switching into fantasy at the end. Then came a piece about a performance of breeching whales, and the audience felt we were right there on the boat, marvelling at the sight.

Sonya Renee Taylor (USA) was a powerful end to the evening’s proceedings. She read a section from her book The Body is Not an Apology, then performed two poems. The first, about her mother, was heartfelt and emotional, leaving more than a few audience members teary eyed. The second, a rousing, powerful, and unapologetic rendition of the piece her book is named for, filled the Isaac Theatre Royal with her presence. It demanded attention, and lifted everyone’s spirits.

John Campbell then retook the stage to remind the audience that what we had seen that night was uniquely special. ‘We go to so many events,’ led Campbell, ‘where we watch the same thing. I’ve watched so many rugby games and seen the Crusaders beat the Hurricanes over and over again.’ Appealing to hometown hearts is always a winner. ‘But what we’ve seen tonight,’ he continued, ‘will never happen again. These seven artists will never again share a stage. They will never again be in a room together. And that’s special.’ And indeed, it was.

Reviewed by Gem Wilder

Other times you can see some of these folks:
Mortification (Robin Robertson – Saturday, 5.30pm)
Hollie McNish and Hera Lindsay Bird: Poetry Stars
Te Ao Hou: Weaving indigenous identity back into Ōtautahi (Joseph Hullen, 2pm Sunday)
The Politics of Fiction (today, 4pm – Rajorshi Chakraborti)
Soundtrack, or, dancing about Architecture (Sunday, 11.30am with Philip Hoare)
Robin Robertson: The Long Take (Sunday, 2.45pm)
The Freedom Papers ( Yaba Badoe – Sunday, 2pm)

WORD Christchurch: Juno Dawson Gender Games

WORD Christchurch Juno Dawson: Gender Games

Given the subject matter at hand, a 10am Saturday session with Juno Dawson could easily have been a dark and morose affair – addictions, mental illness, gender and sexuality are all key themes in Dawson’s body of work, though it was ultimately a light and enlightened session, which has encouraged me to look deeper into her work.

Juno-DawsonGender-GamesDawson has published work in both Young Adult and Non-Fiction. Conversation for a time moved around the way that Young Adult, as a category, is often very liberating for writers in terms of genre, with romance, horror, fantasy or drama all ultimately ending up in the same place in the bookstore. This has allowed her writing to shift between styles in a way that Adult Fiction’s more rigid genre divisions wouldn’t allow. Dawson’s background is in education, though she deliberately doesn’t use her fiction as a means to try and educate young people, there is a wonderful sense here of the ability to create worlds where the hard discussions and intensely personal feelings of youth around identity and substance (ab)use and sex can be raised and thought about and considered in a safer way by locating them in fiction.

Of note also was discussion on Doctor Who (Dawson has been commissioned to write the first novelisation of the Dr) and of the transformative power of the Spice Girls, for those who were of the right age in the 90s. I can only look back hazily on the world before those 5 iconoclasts entered, but it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to consider their important part in making the world a safer place to be queer or questioning as a teenager than it was before.

Reviewed by Brett Johansen

WORD Christchurch: Comfortable in your Skin

WORD Christchurch: Comfortable in your Skin

In this session put together by guest programmer Tusiata Avia, Victor Roger led a panel of queer people of colour, each with different stories to tell about how they have come to be comfortable in their skin. As Roger invited each panelist to tell the audience about their journey to self-acceptance, we saw the similarities between stories that spanned continents and generations.

Comfortable-in-your-own-skin

Manu Vaeatangitau
Georgina Beyer was up first, and she led us through her fascinating tale, from leaving home at 16 with dreams of studying at the New Zealand Drama School, a stint as ‘the boyfriend’ on soap opera Close to Home, time as a stripper and sex worker, to becoming the first transsexual Mayor and then Member of Parliament. Add in renal failure and a kidney transplant, and you have what would make a seriously fantastical biopic. And who would play her in the movie of her life? Beyer is adamant: ‘First things first, it has to be a transgender person.’

Beyer is unapologetically herself. There was never a question of her being anyone else, and her ‘Fuck off’ to the haters attitude is refreshing. She says of her teenage years: ‘When I was being Georgina I was free, I was liberated, I was comfortable in my own skin.’

Sonya-Renee-Taylor

Sonya Renee Taylor

Radical Self Love activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor is also unapologetically herself, and has made it her life mission to guide other people towards accepting themselves, exactly as they are. Roger asked Taylor how she came to this level of what she terms Radical Self Love, a movement that has it’s roots in a conversation Taylor had with a friend, which led to a poem, which led to activism and a book, The Body Is Not An Apology. Taylor answered: ‘Language creates things, so as you’re saying shit you’re making shit.’ Meaning that the more she performed her poem, the more she began living its message.

Artist and founding member of FAFSWAG, Pati Solomona Tyrell, also wants to help others become comfortable in their skin. He sees his work and the events and creations of FAFSWAG as a way to return power and knowledge to Pacific people. ‘A lot of [traditional Pacific] power and knowledge is held by the church, so it’s not accessible to queer kids.’ Tyrell talked of the close bond he has with his family, and how that bond forced his coming out to them in his first year at University, as ‘having to hold something back that was a very important part of my identity kind of wrecked me.’ Though Tyrell’s family are accepting and supportive, they can’t understand the experience of being queer. This is where the community that is FAFSWAG comes in. ‘We built, like, a little family.’

Manu Vaeatangitau is a part of that FAFSWAG family. He describes his own coming out at 15 as violent. The violence that was a constant throughout his High School years ‘made me very resilient.’ The youngest on the panel, and the last to share their story, Roger asked Vaeatangitau to reflect on whether he thought his generation have it easier than the more experienced panel members. ‘It’s a waste of energy to compare,’ responded Vaeatangitau. Drowning is drowning, no matter how deep the water. This nicely drew the panel together in a united front to wrap things up.

A last question from the audience saw Beyer respond with her same take no prisoners, give no fucks attitude, and Roger signed off ‘We end with fire from the whaea.’

 

Reviewed most excellently by Gem Wilder

Other events featuring these speakers:
Sonya Renee Taylor: The Body is not an Apology (Sunday 2 September, 1.15pm)
FAFSWAG: Vogue!  (Pati Solomona Tyrell, Manu Vaeatangitau) Workshop, 2.30pm, Saturday 1 September
The Neu! Otatahi Incident (Pati Solomona Tyrell, Manu Vaeatangitau) 7.00pm, Saturday 1 September
The Sex and Death Salon (Victor Rodger) 10pm, Saturday 1 September

WORD Christchurch: The House of Islam, with Ed Husain

WORD Christchurch: The House of Islam, with Ed Husain

It was established from the outset that there was something more rigorous than the advertised “conversation” on offer, with host, journalist Donna Miles-Mojab challenging Ed Husain immediately on matters pertaining to the Iranian government’s theology. Husain’s book The House of Islam is, he has explained, written with a western, English speaking audience in mind, and for those of us fitting that description there was a period of time in which we found ourselves perhaps a little disoriented by this discourse, though it was ultimately a session which cast light on the ideals of open, challenging discourse and the importance of this, while adding a layer to conversations raised elsewhere this weekend.

Ed-Hussain-House-of-Islam
Husain’s book is a beautifully written, detailed and thorough exploration of Islam which I devoured enthusiastically a few weeks ago, and as I read it, I was struck often by the way that he shows what commonality there is between societies steeped in Christianity and Islam and between the religions and their Abrahamic cousin Judaism. Husein emphasised this in terms of both the theology and ideals of the religions and in a more modern context, in terms of the similarities between the Imperialist West and the Ottoman empire.

Husain also notably explores the way in which the concepts of Shariah have become twisted to become totalitarian in radical Islam (and in the western Islamophobic understanding) though illuminated the way that ultimately the same values which brought western law to being are present; and indeed that for a modern, western Muslim, the laws of a country such as New Zealand fulfil all the key values of Shariah. There is far more nuance to this than our blunt, binary discourse in the west often allows space for, and fear has taken over where misunderstanding lives.

There was a bristle amongst the crowd at Miles-Mohab’s approach as a facilitator, though I applaud her and indeed the organisers for allowing this to be something more than a feel-good tour of Islam for the uninformed. Without the context that Miles-Mojab ensured we were aware of, it would have been all too easy to miss the way in which Husain’s analysis at times arrives in places that read very much alike the Conservative or Republican side of the western political battlefield. There’s far more at play in terms of the political spectrum, our collective values and the flow of ideas and information than I could hope to sum up here, though I appreciate the way the session allowed the threads of this conversation to be teased out further, rather than left hidden.

The way we arrive at personal beliefs and the way we seek to make our global society safer and fairer are matters which won’t be resolved at WORD Christchurch this weekend, though it was hard to put the echoes of American Fascism brought to mind by David Neiwert’s session the previous night to the back of the mind when looking at the questions of radicalism within Islam – Husain’s own journey through accepting and then rejecting radical Islam was not touched upon in great depth today, though there was discussion of the similarities and differences between alt America and radical Islamism.

Husain at this point argued very strongly against relativism in understanding the two fringe groups which have wrestled great control in the world, suggesting that radical Islamic terror was a far greater threat to the globe than right wing America, though the way in which this same idea feeds the thought process of the fascistic right in the west is an affront.

The hour long format meant that all these worms were just tipped onto the table at the point of us moving to the next event, but I am grateful to Ed Husain and Donna Miles-Mojab for bringing the can and the opener.

Reviewed by Brett Johansen

Ed Husain will also appear on Saturday, this time with Denise Mina, in Disunited Kingdom – 1pm, at Philip Carter Family Concert Hall, The Piano

WORD Christchurch: Fast Burning Women – Selina Tusitala Marsh and Tusiata Avia

Fast Burning Women
featuring Selina Tusitala Marsh and Tusiata Avia

Selina Tusitala Marsh’s list of accomplishments needs a fair amount of time allocated to it’s recitation. Marsh is no layabout, and as her friend Tusiata Avia says after introducing her, ‘That CV is from earlier this year so you probably have to add about ten more things to it.’ tusiata selina.JPG

The focus of this session was on the juggling required of a woman in Selina’s position: Poet Laureate, lecturer and researcher, mother, runner, Writers in Schools ambassador, traveller, friend, wife, aunty….the list goes on. How does one keep so many plates spinning? How to stay a multi-tasking fast-burning woman without becoming a burnt out woman?

The pairing of Avia and Marsh meant we got a personal insight into just how Marsh is able to keep going. The two are friends, very similar in lifestyles and values, perfectionists who push themselves hard. Their closeness was evident in the easy manner in which they joked with each other, while championing and advocating for each other at the same time.

Avia opened up about her own story of burn out that saw her bedridden for 18 months. Incredibly, on the days she was able to get out of bed, she would still force herself to work. It wasn’t until the exhaustion started affecting her mentally and emotionally that she started turning down work. But how does someone get to this stage? A statement by Jesse Jackson that resonated with Marsh goes some way to explaining: ‘If you want to succeed as a person of colour you have to be excellent all the time.’ Avia points out that women of colour need to be doubly excellent.

And so how does Marsh not burn out? What tools and tips does she have for those of us who feel the mother guilt, who battle perfectionism, who are working under the weight of the communities we represent? Who does she look to for inspiration? Her answer came in the form of Oprah Winfrey’s book What I Know For Sure. As Marsh read it she realised what was missing from her own life, in comparison to Oprah, was a trusted friend, a sister to call on, and most importantly, a soundboard. Someone who got it. ‘I was Oprah without a Gayle.’ So Marsh and Avia embarked on what they call their earbud relationship. One where they call each other almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and check in, providing advice and counsel.

With Avia at the end of the telephone, Marsh is able to carry the tokotoko of the Poet Laureate wherever it takes her. She is able to ask for what she needs. She is able to share her load. Marsh noted: ‘When I was able to redefine what support means to me and my life, that’s when I found support.’

Both Marsh and Avia continue to write and create through the many challenges they face. An audience member asked Avia how her illness had affected her writing and she begins with coyness, saying she hasn’t written much. ‘That’s not true,’ Marsh corrects her. She knows Avia is working on a new book, and you can see the pride she has in her friend, Shine Theory in action. Marsh is working on a graphic novel (‘I’ve always doodled; Spike Milligan is my idol.’). She wants to make poetry accessible to all communities.

Leaving the session my friend remarked that most New Zealanders don’t know how lucky we are to have Selina Tusitala Marsh as our Poet Laureate. Everyone who attended Fast Burning Women knows, and we also know how lucky Marsh is to have Tusiata Avia at the end of the phone line, spurring her on.

Reviewed by Gem Wilder

Tusiata Avia will appear in two more events during WORD Christchurch 2018: 

Black Marks on the White Page: A Roundtable
Sonya Renee Taylor: The Body is not an Apology

WORD Christchurch – 125 Years: Are we there yet?

WORD Christchurch 2018 – 125 Years: Are We There Yet?

An anthropologist, a human rights activist, a journalist, an academic, a musician and a broadcaster all walk into a concert hall to discuss the question ‘Are we there yet?’. At this sold-out session commemorating 125 years of women’s suffrage, the collective response was as to be expected: no. The talk was more centred around– as the whip-smart Kim Hill had suggested in her introduction – where ‘there’ actually is. After all, she added, ‘Feminism is like housework – every few years we need to do it all again.’

125-Years-SuffrageKeeping the house tidy last night were a range of feminists, spanning years and backgrounds, who came at the ‘no’ from different directions. Dame Anne Salmond took a wide view and covered the ground lost in an unequal system. After time overseas, she had returned to New Zealand some thirty years ago to find a country reshaping its institutions to the benefit of individuals. This ‘hyper individualism’ rippled out into society, where individual achievement was equated with fulfilment. Women had new freedoms but it had cost a lot: ‘Workplaces became more ruthless and transactional’; our capacity to care for others was endangered.

Trailblazer Georgina Bayer traced the momentum of the last 125 years, highlighting moments of quick transition and great traction, exemplified by the time when women held the five top constitutional positions in the country. This spoke to the importance of the visibility of women in power and petitioned us to think about Georgina’s own lived experience – to consider the role of bold individuals who have forged these paths.

At this point Kim skilfully steered the conversation by positing a problem: we have had the top positions, but we are still not there yet. So, what do we need to do? Attributing the following quote to Gloria Steinem, she suggested that it was ‘not a question of having a bigger slice of the cake, but that we have to remake the cake altogether’.

Part of this, perhaps, is changing the ingredients – moving beyond binary arguments, which is how journalist Paula Penfold began. She brought some stats and facts to the table via a listicle, where for every positive, a negative emerged too. The good news: at Stuff, the CEO is a woman, as is 50% of senior executive, but out of 143 CEOs in Aotearoa, only 4% are women. In terms of gender pay equity things are progressing but a recent report on pay parity states that we are unlikely to achieve this until 2044. Kim suggested there would be little chance for pay equity until private companies are transparent with what they pay people. Problems remain while they are hidden.

Next was the impressive, fluid and cohesive response from Sacha McMeeking. She acknowledged all those women who had gone before, who made it possible for her to be born into the ‘girls can do anything’ time. She was inspired to be one of those who forged human rights, but no longer believes that these alone can change the world. The time for grand normative debates has passed; we need to focus on creating social habits. Sacha pointed to economic injustice and violence: both are embedded issues that are not solely produced by gender – rather they result from our economic, justice, education and mental health systems, which need an overhaul.

Finally, Lizzie Marvelly – musician, columnist and the youngest on stage – took the mic. Her account of her experiences provided a depressing reality check of where we are at now. She had many ‘amazing opportunities’, many tainted by blatant sexism. Lizzie also pointed to inequalities in the stories women tell about women – we all know Kate Sheppard, but few of the Māori women who have laid the groundwork for us today.

Before handing over to questions from the (mostly female) audience, Kim asked about choice. Is everything a feminist act if choice is involved? Lizzie responded that if the choice isn’t about equality, then it isn’t feminist. Privilege, the need for care and how to allow for agency were all touched on in question time. But common to all panelists was the belief that we need more than rights; we need to address the structures; we need outcomes. ‘Multivariate problems call for a variety of solutions’. The cake must be remade.

Reviewed by Emma Johnson

Georgina Beyer appears in the session ‘Comfortable in Your Skin’ tonight

That F Word
by Lizzie Marvelly
published by HarperCollins NZ
ISBN 9781775541127Li

WORD Christchuch 2018: Kā Huru Manu

My WORD Christchurch 2018 got off to a fascinating start with a session on Kā Huru Manu, the Ngāi Tahu cultural mapping project. Ngāi Tahu leaders and archivists David Higgins, Helen Brown, and Takerei Norton spoke together about how this project has developed.

Over the past ten years, the team has mapped over six thousand traditional Māori place names over the Ngāi Tahu rohe. You can see a lot of the results online at http://www.kahurumanu.co.nz/. The loading screen says ‘Preparing your journey…’, which is very apt: the digital atlas contains a wealth of information about Māori place names, ara tawhito (traditional travel routes), mahinga kai (food-gathering places), pā, kāinga, urupā (burial grounds), and much more. Norton, with justifiable pride, says Kā Huru Manu is the most detailed indigenous place-name project anywhere in the world.

Kā Huru Manu also contains information about native reserves: tiny parcels of land that were set aside for Māori as part of the land sales. There were ten major land purchases in the mid-nineteenth century. Brown says that although there were no land confiscations, there was duress, coercion, and forced sales. She says that when your history and identity is embedded in the landscape, losing land means losing your culture. She showed us the map of the native reserves and noted how tiny they were when you consider that Ngāi Tahu people used to have the run of about 80% of the South Island. Kā Huru Manu is a reassertion of that mana.

Key kaupapa of this project are acknowledging sources, and creating a resource by and for Ngāi Tahu people. The team have travelled around Te Waipounamu having hui at marae up and down the island. Brown said this project is about building relationships on a foundation of trust, and it is clear that the team are held in very high regard. People are sharing important information, and trusting the archivists with long-held family papers and histories. The atlas contains not just place names but detailed information about where the information came from, stories associated with that place, and information such as what foods were traditionally gathered there. The history of the project is recorded at http://www.kahurumanu.co.nz/cultural-mapping-story.

One of the challenges has been unpicking historical truth from sources that are not entirely reliable. For example, Herries Beattie was an early twentieth-century Pākehā ethnologist who published extensively on Ngāi Tahu history. He relied heavily on a map created by Māori, but did not have access to the accompanying notebooks that contained important contextual information. And so misspellings, shortenings of words and misinterpretations entered the official histories. Norton said it is their job to correct Beattie’s mistakes, just as it will be the job of future generations to correct any mistakes they are making now.

Higgins is a member of Te Pae Kōrako, which oversees the work of the Ngāi Tahu Archive. They want to make the materials they have available to their young people, in line with the whakataukī of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu: Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei (for us and our children after us). And now the technology is available to do just that. Brown says their people need to time reabsorb this learning: ‘We want to give this material back to our own people so they can own it first. There is widespread pride in and love of this project’. At the end of the session some people in the audience sang a waiata to acknowledge the importance of this work. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Heritage

WORD Christchuch 2018: Kā Huru Manu
check out the maps and find out more here: http://www.kahurumanu.co.nz/. 

WORD Christchurch: David Neiwert – Alt-America

WORD Christchurch is on from 29 August – 2 September.

David-Neiwert_cropped-1David Neiwerts body of work as a journalist centres on the radical right wing in the United States of America, and the discussion here was centred around issues brought forward by his latest book Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump.

The USA, and by extension the world, sits on the edge of an apparent historical precipice; Neiwert remarks that America has been very lucky when it comes to Facism and Authoritarianism, in that a movement has not emerged with a singular, charismatic leader. Until now.

Donald Trump has risen to the top of a movement mired in the fascistic elements which have long been a part of the American psyche, but those elements have become emboldened begun to draw together in a way that has not previously been seen. The emergence of Trump as a right-wing populist demagogue has taken the country to the precipice of authoritarianism in unprecedented manner, and it is – Neiwert argues – on the back of the emergence of an Alternative America where people’s connection with reality, truth, compassion, empathy and reason have been eroded by a relentless stream of misinformation and hateful rhetoric. A counterfactual culture driven by Fox News and Infowars, emboldened to take to the streets and behave violently. American Fascism has its leader now, and the mid-term elections and 2020 presidental race are ultimately pivotal in the success or downfall of the regime and the ideology.

New Zealand in the past has tended to ultimately be dismissive of America and its influence on us, othering the American as a brash, arrogant, imbecile who is ultimately little more than an annoyance, though events since 2001 have changed this perception, and there was a sense palpable among those present that the politics of America are in 2018 of great concern to us here in New Zealand. With our neighbours in Australia unapologetically legitimising authoritarian mistreatment of refugees and migrants, the trajectory of politics in the USA and the ability of this to influence the lives of people here in the South Pacific is clear.

Neiwert’s analysis does not initially inspire a great deal of confidence that the movement of people’s thinking toward the extreme right can be halted. He talked of the way that those seduced by the ideals of the alternative right are generally immobile in their thinking, driven by gut fears and paranoia, and discussed the ways in which debate – both public and personal – tends to have the result of hardening the beliefs of the radical right wing.

He talked repeatedly of the individuals who are consuming and producing the hateful rhetoric of this alternative universe as being “down the rabbit hole” of white supremacy and anti-semetic conspiracy theory, remarking on how rare it is for people to be shifted in their beliefs once they are established in their profound denial. The apt comparison was made with the mentality of religious cults producing self-fulfilling prophesy over and over, though religious fervour is replaced by paranoid beliefs about minorities and a belief that the white way of life is under threat. Crystallised by the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the movement has gone from fringe groups of militia, tinfoil conspiracists and internet trolls all the way to control of the Republican Party and the WhiteHouse.

Neiwert’s suggested responses are not necessarily direct, but the encouragement of empathy and compassion in our society and encouraging participation in democracy from all quarters is hard to argue against. Faced with the potential emergence of global authoritarianism, it is vital that we take the in-depth understanding that David Neiwert has dedicated himself to and fight these ideologies, lest the lessons of the horrific atrocities of the 20th century be forgotten and repeated.

Attended and reviewed by Brett Johansen

David Neiwert: Alt-America
WORD Christchurch, Thursday 30 August

Buy the Book – Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump
by David Neiwert
Published by Verso Books
ISBN 9781786637468