NZF Writers & Readers: Tikanga Now, with Emma Espiner, Māmari Stephens and Morgan Godfrey

Tara Black and Elizabeth Heritage have both reviewed Tikanga Now, Tara in pictures, and Elizabeth with considerably more words.

Emma Espiner, lecturer Māmari Stephens and unionist Morgan Godfery discuss why Pākehā need to understand and embrace tikanga Māori, alongside Paula Morris. A timely conversation for all  New Zealanders.

NWF18 Tikanga Now

Big chunks of the Renouf foyer had packed out for Tikanga Now to hear Paula Morris chair a panel with Emma Espiner, Māmari Stephens, and Morgan Godfery. They all have essays in the Journal of Urgent Writing.

We started with definitions of tikanga. Godfery said people think of tikanga as magical, ‘but it’s simply the right thing to do’.

Stephens said it’s a Māori approach to things and mode of doing. Tikanga can be uncertain, but that uncertainty is positive and generative. Tikanga provides a framework upon which practices can hang – it saves you from awkward silences. Stephens also noted that there are ways in which tikanga can be used to exclude. For example, there are tensions between groups saying that te reo Māori is for all Māori, and those who say it is for everybody. ‘The same thing could be said for living our lives with tikanga – it’s a gift for beyond just those of us who are Māori.’

Espiner said that, for example at a tangi, the tikanga helps take the pain out of it a bit because you know what to do. Sometimes people are frightened of getting it wrong, but that discomfort is part of it. Look for the situations where you don’t feel safe. If you’re feeling comfortable it’s probably because you’re within the dominant culture.

Espiner said that as someone who is both Māori and Pākehā sitting across two worlds, she notices how things could be done better if you apply the principles of one to the other. She spoke about the importance of representation, noting for example Mihi Forbes’ essay on The Spinoff about being invited to a prestigious event celebrating International Women’s Day and Suffrage 125 but then being nearly the only Māori in the room.

There was an interesting discussion about ‘Maussies’ – Māori people in Australia. Māori are the tangata whenua of this land, but not of the land in Australia. Is it appropriate for them to build marae there? Godfery thinks it’s unacceptable. Stephens pointed out that ‘as Māori, we were not born to be just in one place’, and talked about the Māori diaspora.

Another point raised was about how cultural familiarity with te ao Māori can vary enormously even between neighbouring suburbs. Damon Salesa has written about segregation in Auckland and white flights from South Auckland. Espiner said that one of the most harmful things about our society is that we don’t live together.

Morris noted that te reo is having a cultural moment. Espiner is very optimistic about this, especially about the recent increase in enrolments in beginner te reo classes. She says the next step is to have lots of places where te reo is spoken, to support te reo teachers, and to have excellence all the way through.

Stephens noted the learning te reo isn’t just about learning the lexicon and the grammar, it’s also about engaging with the practices of Māori life and with real live people. ‘Whanaungatanga is the act and art of creating relationships.’ She spoke about the importance of marae, and how small rural marae are in danger of ‘going cold’ through neglect. She noted that, often when Māori are faced with threat, they build a wharenui to come together and discuss. In the 1960s and 70s especially there were massive marae built because of all the political ferment. Pan-tribal marae in urban centres are particularly important.

Morris brought up the question of tikanga and gender. In the 21st century, is it fair to ban wāhine from doing certain things? Stephens said it makes more sense if you take a step back and look at all the history. Tikanga can be changed, but it has to be the people of that particular marae who make that decision. Espiner pointed to the most recent episode of Kaupapa on the Couch, a web series about all things Māori from Te Ātea editor Leonie Hayden at The Spinoff. In it, Hayden addresses gender issues and mana wāhine in tikanga. She points out that, although men and women have traditionally had different roles in te ao Māori, women were not regarded as less than men. And many Māori gods and supernatural deities that we now think of as male may have been female, since te reo has gender-neutral pronouns. Maleness may have been imposed upon them by colonists.

The standard of audience questions in this session was very high. One question was about combining tikanga with environmentalism and business practices. Godfery said that on the issues of whether tikanga Māori can coexist with capitalism: ‘Hell no! But reasonable people have different views.’

Reviewed in pictures by Tara Black, and in words by Elizabeth Heritage



Book Review: The Whale and the Snapper, by Jo Van Dam, illustrated by Richart Holt

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_whale_and_the_snapperThe Whale and the Snapper is part of the Kiwi Corkers collection published by Scholastic NZ. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing previous titles Parakeet in Boots and Wacko Kakapo, and each of these books have been received well by my grandchildren. Three-year-old Quinn had me read this title to her over and over.

‘Once upon a time, in the deep blue and dark blue sea, lived a tiny shiny snapper, and her sisters thirty-three.’

Quinn stopped me at this point, asking ‘has she got thirty-three sisters, Grandma’ – I had to explain that snappers lay a lot of eggs and, yes, they were all her sisters. Only having one sister, Quinn thought about that for a minute and said – “I don’t think I’d like to have thirty-three sisters”.  I  think she is right, one sister is plenty.

The tiny snappers had all been nagged by their mother to ‘stay hidden in the weed, as whales and people fishing reckon you’re a tasty feed.’  Generally, they obeyed her but of course being young they were curious and ventured beyond where they should go.

Of course, a good story has to have a villain and in this case, it was a whale. The tiny snapper appealed to the whale to not eat him up but to let him go. If he did, he would sometime in the future repay the kindness. So, the villain turns out to be a good guy and let the snapper go. The snapper never forgot that kindness and was able to return the favour.

The moral of the story is if you do a good deed you will be repaid sometime in the future – well you hope so!

After reading each page I stopped and asked Quinn what she could see in the illustrations. The language alongside each one just made me laugh with the amount of Kiwi slang – ‘sweet as! Fresh kai for me,’ being just one example.  A truly delightful book.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Whale and the Snapper
by Jo Van Dam, illustrated by Richard Holt
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434948


Book Review: The Face of Nature: An Environmental History of the Otago Peninsula, by Jonathan West

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_The_face_of_nature.jpgThe Otago Peninsula is a clearly defined geographical area. Bounded by the sea and the hills, it provides an environment for seals, penguin and albatrosses. The abundant resources of the peninsula also made it an important place for the early Polynesian arrivals. This book follows the story of the Peninsula from pre-settlement to the end of the 19th Century.

Jonathan West has a love for this area where he was raised. He has tramped the hills and researched the history thoroughly. He melds the natural environment with the imposed implications of settlement. This is not an unreadable scientific document, nor is it a retrospective History. Instead, the Chapter headings clearly lead us across a changing landscape.

It begins with the land: He Whenua Hou. This is followed by Arrival and Adaptation, first of the Māori and the early settlement of Otakou. Each chapter includes maps and photographs to ensure the reader can visualise the enormous changes to the landscape. The research is thorough and includes many small details, which added depth to my understanding. The accounts of conflicts between settlers and Māori and the impact these have had on the development of certain areas and cultural practices, showed an understanding of the changes in perception of what is good and right. Whilst the British came to a shared arrangement for settlement, this was no easy journey. I found the chapter: The Axe and the Lucifer Match of particular interest… Such rapid destruction of the land, and the competition for the fisheries made startling reading.

Jonathan West concludes with the chapter from which the title of the book comes: ‘The Whole Face of Nature is Altered’. This is a quote from a reflection written in 1899 by G. M. Thomson. The journey is ongoing and in the concluding chapter, West reflects on the future of the many endangered species present on the Otago Peninsula.

This book is an essential for anyone with a love of, and interest in the Otago Peninsula. It unites the land and the people over a rapidly changing landscape and raises a number of pressing questions about what happens next. The illustrations allow easy access to understanding and the comprehensive notes at the end, allow access to further information.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

The Face of Nature: An Environmental History of the Otago Peninsula
By Jonathan West
Published by Otago University Press
ISBN  9781927322383


Book Review: Once Upon A Small Rhinoceros, by Meg McKinlay

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_once_upon_a_small_rhinocerosThis whimsical book brought a smile to my face with its positivity, determination and adventure of the small rhinoceros heading out to explore the world.

We meet a young rhinoceros who is delightfully personified in the illustrations but still remains a rhinoceros (thankfully she is not given some cutesy name! – this book never becomes cheesy or juvenile).  And did I mention she is a girl? – great to see girls represented in powerful roles in picture books.

The young rhinoceros lives with the other rhinos next to a river which bring the sights and smells of faraway lands to her rhinoceros world filled with mud, grass and trees.  The other rhinoceroses tell her that this is all she needs, that she is crazy to dream of anything more.

The young rhinoceros smiles and agrees as she continues to collect the supplies she needs to go adventuring – she never loses her dream.  We watch her build a boat before setting sail down the river and over the ocean.  She sails through the day and after each night, through summer and winter.  We see the rhinoceros exploring the world – everywhere is represented (so much to discuss in the illustrations!).

Eventually she has seen more things than a rhinoceros could ever imagine and returns home where the rhinoceroses are waiting.  The rhinoceroses continue to show their lack understanding of her adventures but another little voice speaks up to ask if it was wonderful.  The young rhinoceros becomes a role model of the possibility of the next little rhinoceros being an explorer too.

A tale beautifully told through dialogue and poetic language.  All ages can follow along because the illustrations clearly tell the story through delightful sketches and watercolours.  It is one of the true treasures of children’s picture books – all ages will find something to love in this book, including the adult reader!  This is a story which will be a fantastic addition to any bedtime collection (especially for anyone who likes to dream big and be an explorer in the world).

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Once Upon A Small Rhinoceros
by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Leila Rudge
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781925126709

Book Review: Witchfairy, by Brigitte Minne, illustrated by Carll Cneut. Translated by Laura Watkinson

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_witchfairyRosemary is a fairy. But she is not like other fairies; she doesn’t want to be sweet and decorous. She wants roller skates but that is not allowed (what if you fell and got a nosebleed?) She also would like a boat but that is not allowed (what if you fell into the water and got all dirty?)

Fairies are expected to be neat and tidy and quiet and polite and speak with honeyed voices. “Rosemary thought fairies were really dull…. Rosemary would rather have been a witch. Witches were allowed to get nice and dirty and to shout and scream with laughter and to sail boats down the stream.”

This desire is not well met by her mother and after stamping of feet and a lot of shouting back and forth, Rosemary takes off to live with the witches in the dark wood. And… despite her mother thinking she will hate it, Rosemary loves it there! Finally she can be loud, and have fun, and learns to fly on a broomstick and gets her roller-skates. “Being a witch was the best fun ever!”

Mum misses her and visits Rosemary in the dark wood, where Rosemary introduces her to broomstick flying, sailing, and tea with the other witches. Mum discovers that the witches aren’t so bad after all and enjoys her time with them. She also discovers that her daughter is happy and overcomes her prejudice and gives Rosemary her blessing to be whoever she wants to be. In turn, Rosemary discovers that she likes being a witch sometimes and a fairy sometimes – she is a witchfairy.

Originally published in Belgium in 1999 under the title Heksenfee, this fairytale about finding your true self is delightfully different and very European in feel. Brigitte Minne has written over 200 stories for children and has won several awards in Belgium and internationally for her work. Illustrator Carll Cneut has also won awards for his work. (In this interview, you see him create art for Witchfairy as he talks about his craft). The illustrations are artworks beautifully hued in reds and pinks, contrasted with deep greys and black. The characters feature huge conical hats akin to those worn by European and Scandinavian gnomes, and rosy red cheeks. I love that the very first page has no illustration; we are drawn in and prepared for the tale with only four lines of text – expectations of the usual sparkly, dainty fairies come thumping down with the delivery of the fourth line, and in we go.

Book Island specialises in bringing well-loved, unique stories from Europe (mainly Holland and Belgium) to New Zealand, offering new perspectives and understanding. They seek to present these stories in beautiful, high-quality books, and Witchfairy is certainly one of them.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

by Brigitte Minne, illustrated by Carll Cneut
Translated by Laura Watkinson.
Published by Book Island
ISBN 9781911496076

Book Review: Collins Field Guide to the New Zealand Seashore, by Sally Carson & Rod Morris

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_collins_field_guide_to_the_nz_seashoreNew Zealand is experiencing a long hot summer with people flocking to the beaches found along the 14,000 kilometres of coastline, to cool off. Children love to potter in rock pools to discover the creatures of the ocean but how many of us can give them a name?

The Collins Field Guide to the New Zealand Seashore is designed to be taken to the beach ‘encouraging a closer look at the community living between the tides’.

‘The seashore, or intertidal zone, is the area of the shore covered by seawater at the high tide and exposed air at low tide.’

In the guide Sally Carson and Rod Morris have dedicated a page for each plant or animal with text and excellent photographs to capture the reader’s interest, and assist with the identification of species.

I found the section on seaweeds particularly interesting as I often bring seaweed home for the garden and it will be fun giving some of the plants a name. I remember my mother being very excited if she found Carrageenan seaweed on the beach, gathering it up to take home to make the milk pudding as discussed in the book.

The guide also includes a section on coastal plants which have extended their distribution into the intertidal zone, adapting to cope with the salty environment. These play an important role in stabilising the sand and mud, helping to slow down the erosion of the coastline which is under constant barrage from the weather and the waves.

Rodd Morris is a former zoo-keeper and conservation officer, documentary –maker, author and award winning photographer who has contributed to thirty books over the course of his career.

Sally Carson is the Director for the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre at the University of Otago and an expert in identification guides for the plants and animals found on New Zealand’s seashore.

They have included some pages at the end of the guide on the changing ocean and coastal concerns with climate change, as well as a comprehensive list of books, articles and websites for those who want further information.

This is a great resource for families who enjoy wandering around the coastline, as well being a great tool for teachers when they take their class to visit the rocky shore.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Collins Field Guide to the New Zealand Seashore
by Sally Carson & Rod Morris
Published by HarperCollins NZ

Book Review: Abel Tasman: Mapping the Southern Lands, by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivančić

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_abel_tasmanThere’s something a little bit eerie about the fact that a few minutes after I picked up Abel Tasman to read it in so I could write this review, Radio New Zealand National broadcast a piece marking the 375th anniversary of Tasman and his crew making first contact with Ngāti Tumatakokiri. It was purely a coincidence, but a tad spooky all the same.

Telling the story of how Abel Tasman came to be in that particular time and place, and what happened afterwards, this book is perfect for middle-upper primary readers (ages about 7 up) as a starting point into the European exploration of New Zealand. The text is easy to understand, balanced in terms of perspective, and follows a straightforward sequence. There are lots of footnotes to explain words used in multiple languages, and a helpful glossary at the back which adds more depth to the narrative.

For me, the highlight of an already good book is the illustrations. My mouth actually dropped open on about the third page, as the use of light was just stunning. The illustrations have a clarity and almost photographic reality that is just magic, and which I’m more used to seeing in art galleries. They are truly beautiful, and will keep me coming back to the story long after I’ve memorised the text. An extra special touch is the use of historic maps and drawings, at least some of which were drawn by Isaac Gilsemans, the fleet merchant in the expedition. Children will love this; and if they don’t notice it themselves, draw their attention to the dates on each set of end papers, and ask them what they notice.

As well as being essential for school and public libraries, this book would make a fantastic addition to the shelf of any curious child who appreciates a good story and asks lots of “why?” and “then what happened?” questions.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Abel Tasman: Mapping the Southern Lands
by Maria Gill
Illustrated by Marco Ivančić
Published by Scholastic
ISBN 9781775435099