Academic journal article Hecate

In Search of a Language and a Shareable Imaginative World E Kore Taku Moe E Riro I a Koe

Academic journal article Hecate

In Search of a Language and a Shareable Imaginative World E Kore Taku Moe E Riro I a Koe

Article excerpt

Readers and writers both struggle to interpret and perform within a common language shareable imaginative worlds.

What happens to the writerly imagination of a black author who is at some level always conscious of representing one's own race to, or in spite of, a race of readers that understands itself to be "universal" or race-free?

Toni Morrison 1993(1)

One of the first ancient Maori chants that I remember learning as a child tells the story of the journey made by our ancestors back to Hawaiki, to a place called Parinui-te-ra to fetch the kumara in order that our people could have this delicacy as part of our food supply. According to Sir Apirana Ngata who recorded a collection of ancient Maori songs in the 1920s, the story of the kumara is a "subject of keen debate among the peoples of the various canoes; the people of each canoe having a different version." I was taught the version that, fortunately for me, is accepted by both of my iwi (Ngati Porou and Ngati Awa) by my father singing or rather droning it to me over and over as a complete piece and then by breaking it up into sections for me to chant along with him. The story comes as an oriori and like many Maori lullabies it is rich with details of ancestral figures and genealogies, with landscapes and configurations of stars and tides, with images which evoke several meanings simultaneously and which intersect various dimensions of time and space. The written version of this lullaby has three hundred and fifty seven words, so it is not a short ditty by any means. All the details in the story are linked directly to the child to whom the story is being sung.

This paper uses the metaphor of a journey, and a narrative style associated with the telling of journey stories, to discuss the development of my current research, to sign-post the sets of ideas that I have explored, to define my areas of interest and shifts in direction, and to identify some of the complexities that excite, frustrate and engage me. I think the metaphor is directly related to the relationship between knowledge and pedagogy because the style of narrative, the events told, the relationships revealed, the places identified and the ideas set out are linked to a way of telling the story, of positioning the narrator and the listener and of conveying different layers of meanings. Most of all I want this paper to set out where I have been and to end with a restatement of where I am heading.

A Narrative of a Journey: The Story of a Proposal

It began as a relatively simple idea, an empirical study of the cultural literacies of Maori children in Maori language as they were being shaped within the alternative schooling movement of Kura Kaupapa Maori. I had hoped that I would be able to track the way Maori children learning through the medium of Maori thought, talked, performed and interpreted the Maori world in which they were being immersed. I regarded the acquisition of Maori literacies within the schooling context as a complex set of cultural and political practices that could potentially transform the educational opportunities and outcomes of Maori children. The desire to pursue such an interest was grounded not just in the political and instrumental needs of the Kura Kaupapa Maori movement but also in my own history as a Maori language activist and early member of Nga Tamatoa from the 1970s, and my involvement as a parent in the struggle to establish Kura Kaupapa Maori as an alternative form of schooling in the 1980s. I position myself within a tradition of resistance that has been carried by my own whanau and iwi since our lands were invaded by Pakeha settlers and later confiscated by the Government last century.

The initial idea of attempting to identify, describe and understand the consequences of Maori cultural literacies slowly changed shape as I discovered how much the field of cultural literacy was concerned with the impact of popular culture on the literate foundations of 'western' society and how little the field was concerned with the difficulties confronted by indigenous minority communities who have been colonised by the 'west'. …

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