Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tangi and Whanau

I have spoiled myself with Maori and other Kiwi books over the past few months, wanting to understand the perspective, see the writing styles and learn about Maori customs from a literary stance.
Witi Ihimaera

I have written about my strong emotional reaction to The Bone People, now one of my favorite books of all time. Tangi and Whanau, two novels written by another influential Kiwi writer, Witi Ihimaera, are a good starting point on Maori-themed literature.

Tangi (definition: tears/crying or funeral) and Whanau (definition: family) are connected. Tangi was published first and tells the story of a young man who's lost his father and is realizing the extent of his love for his father and how his passing will affect his life to come. It is an excellent way to be introduced in the world of the Maori people. You live through the emotion of the loss, the customs and traditions of a Tangi and the meaning of what it is to be family.

Though Whanau was published later on, it actually takes place before Tangi, using the same characters, focusing on a wider community rather than on one individual. It shows the trials and tribulations of a community of people, from the same Iwi, and their struggle between the traditional way of life and modern Pakeha (white) ways of living. How the young move away and stop working the land and how the old are holding on to what they know was a sustainable way of life. It is actually a novel that could take place in any land in the sense that indigenous peoples around the world are struggling with these same issues. It is a global dilemna that is often only appreciated after things have gone beyond help.

If you get a chance to read Tangi or Whanau before The Bone People, I think it would help give you a foundation for Maori culture. They are easy and well written reads.

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