Thursday, 30 October 2014

Māori Culture in my Novels. Earning the Right.

After a couple of weeks of editing and getting print copies ready for Createspace, I was desperate to get back to writing Du Rose Sons. But first I needed to do some research. Usually it involves visiting pa sites such as Rangiriri or tramping to the top of Taupiri Maunga, just to see what it looks like off the top. Once I forced my gorgeous husband to drive me to Port Waikato because that’s the town that Hana can see from the top of Logan’s mountain. Logan’s comment to Hana that, “There’s nothing there,” was not only true, but it’s what my husband said to me before we did the hour long journey there weaving and winding through the mountains. It was pretty beautiful though.

Mount Ruapehu
There is so much about hidden New Zealand that is truly stunning. It’s not just the big sky or the phenomenal ridge of tide as two oceans clash just off Cape Reinga, it’s the raw nakedness of the geography and the incredible richness of the culture.

My Hana Du Rose Mysteries have embraced Māori culture more as they’ve progressed, not least because Logan Du Rose has such an intricate history attached to the land he owns and the family he belongs to. There are some shocks to come in Du Rose Sons that you won’t have seen coming, but I wanted to extend the richness of the Māori tapestry within it.

View from the top of Taupiri Mountain
My qualifications to do this are probably somewhat flaky in that I am an immigrant with no Māori heritage whatsoever. But before emigrating from the UK, my children and I made serious efforts to learn Māori, despite being ridiculed when we got here for it, albeit mainly by white people! We arrived in the country knowing how to introduce ourselves, make simple greetings and recognise signs. We knew not to stick our tongues out at anyone and not to put our backsides anywhere near surfaces which might be used to for food. Now that last one sounds odd but you would be surprised how often you rest your butt against your kitchen surface or how many of your teenagers hoik their bums onto the counter or table to chat to you. So see, our feeble attempts were worth it. That is considered offensive. You don’t put your nono where you eat your kai!

As a family we visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and spoke at length to a lovely man there who was brought up on the site and remembered the English flag being blown up when he was a boy. He loved that my children attempted to converse with him and showed an interest in his heritage. I also studied for a year extramurally with Te Wanaanga Aotearoa on a Māori history course, which was immensely enriching. I had such an incredible response from Māori people who I asked for help while I was doing the course and had some neat conversations. I went to a cafe once and sat with my books out studying and ended up with the barista sat next to me trying to point out Te Wherowhero’s pa up in the Hakarimata Ranges on an ordinance survey map. Now that was fun!

Taupiri in the early morning mists
So today I’ve been researching some Wise Words of the Māori in a beautiful book by Murdoch Riley of that name, Revealing History and Traditions.

I will list some I think you might find inspiring and relate them to a section in Du Rose Sons just to tease those of you desperately hanging out for it.

Riding my horse by the Waikato River
Tama Du Rose
There is a scene in which Tama empties Hana’s pantry searching for food and eats everything he finds. He’s home on leave from the fire service for a reason that if I told you, I would have to kill you for knowing. But he’s hungry and foraging and Alfred says of him,
Ahakoa nui, ahakoa iti, Pūrangatia ko te aroaro o Taiawa.
No whether large or small, it will be heaped up in front of Taiawa.
Now Taiawa was a traveller and a glutton it seems and would eat absolutely anything put in front of him. Actually he sounds like the perfect child but anyway, this sentence aptly describes the grazing Tama.

Logan Du Rose
Logan takes his whakapapa seriously and his debt to the people of the land. His grandmother, Phoenix Du Rose buried his afterbirth underneath the ancient kauri tree at the top of the mountain and his body will return to the mountain after death. His daughter was born in the same place at the end of Du Rose Legacy and he unwittingly buried her afterbirth there too, scraping the baked earth over it with the heel of his boot. The moko tattoo on his upper arm and shoulder details his heritage, even though he discovered at the age of forty that his heritage was not as he believed.
E kore e taka te parapara a ōna tūpuna, tukua iho kia a ai.
He cannot lose the spirit of his ancestors; it must descend to him.

Ahakoa mate he tētē kura, e ora ana he tētē kura.
Although one chief has died, another will take his place.

E haere atu ana he whakatipuranga
E haere mai ana he whakatipuranga.
One generation goes and another generation arrives.

Researching Maori Wise words
Will, the archivist in the Du Rose Museum which Hana has started up at the hotel in the mountains is the guardian of the Du Rose taonga and artifacts. In Du Rose Sons, Hana has cause to take issue with a particular item and in protecting it, Will says,
E hara i te mea, he kotahi tangata nāna i whakaara i tō pō.
It was not one man alone who was awake in the dark times.
He is trying to tell Hana that she should consider more than one version of events.

I’ve chosen heaps and would happily share them all with you. But at the risk of boring you, I will give you a final insight into the character of Reuben Du Rose, who you met in Du Rose Legacy. Of him it would be said,
E tohe i ngā tohe a Pōtoru.
Stubborn as the stubbornness of Pōtoru, who rushed foolishly to his own destruction.

The picture I painted on my living room wall.
Whanau means family.

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