Saturday, June 27, 2009

I'm reading Redemption Songs

As I've mentioned i am a voracious reader but I've had a bit of an issue with the library and haven't been getting books out. It has meant that I've been able to re-read some books – which has been great. But i was ready for a new really good read. First i had to sort the library issue out. And the issue was that I usually take out 9 or so books at a time. I had forgotton to return them on time and had accumulated overdue fines of $120 – and I didn't want to pay it. Eventually I went and and had a lovely chat with a librarian – we sorted it out (halved the fine) and I was able to get some books out.

The book I am reading is, “Redemption Songs – A life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki”. I chose this book because of the internet. A blog called Reading the Maps had a list of great NZ books and this was number one. I hadn't read it before – I know it seems remarkable – it does to me too, but I hadn't even know the book existed – let alone the contents. I tend to believe in fate and that I have come across this book at exactly the right time for me. I'm 50 pages in and then I remember something interesting.

I once attended a Ngai Tahu meeting and during the discussions a lament was made that it was difficult to tell our stories. A Wahine toa spoke and said that she used whatever was at hand, be it a superman doll or whatever and used them to tell the stories for her tamariki. The point was that we just have to use what we have got in front of us. Yes we always try for more but what we have is enough to do something, to keep moving forward.

So I'm going to start the book again and read out loud all of the interwoven maori. This is my way of trying to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I'm using what is at hand. It is also my way of marking respect, to the subject and to apoligise for my lack of knowledge. It's a personal thing. But the real advantage is the change in my consciousness as I read the book. I believe that intent creates mauri. How do we learn? Maori traditionally have learned orally. The spoken word has power. Speaking out loud is powerful. How are our stories and legends passed down now? We don't really have the opportunities to get together to korero; the western based society that has been created here dissuades it. But stories are so enriching. My brother is a great storyteller, he is funny and you become immersed in the story, reacting as each event occurs. It times gone past he would have told our Ngai Tahu whanui stories. Our history, our heroes, our journeys, our legends. In future times he might very well do that. I don't know if we give enough respect and kudos to our storytellers within our Ngai Tahu whanui.

I'm not going to write a review of the book – I think that would be a bit persumpuous for the book of the year 1996, but i will write about the insights I get from the book.

I feel like Witi Ihimaera who wrote in a review in the Listener, 1995 that, “I had Redemption Songs in the house for seven days before I had the courage to read it. I circled it warily, watching the way the sunlight glowed on the cover and the moonlight surrounded it with a halo. It was only when i saw the rainbow on the eighth morning that I decided the time was propitious.”

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