I have just spent two days at Nga Kete Wānanga Marae at the Manukau Institute of Technology. Part of a wider Auckland Museum leadership initiative, the noho was intended to provide a space and time for honest discussion and reflection on bi-culturalism at the Museum. Throughout the stay I had a passage written by Maualaivao Albert Wendt in his response to Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh's new publication, Tightrope , going round and round in my head:
‘We are what we remember, the self is a trick of memory . . . history is the remembered tightrope that stretches across the abyss of all that we have forgotten.’
As we listened to the whaikorero, as we heard the stories of the ancestors, the stories of the tukutuku and kowhaiwhai it reminded me that acts of remembering - of telling stories, of speaking, of writing - breathe life into history. It sustains. It can also be a resurrection.
1. Speaking of Dr Marsh...my goodness:
2. Continuing along the poetry and remembering lines, here's a piece from the New York times, Memorize that Poem! advocating for bringing back poetry memorization and recitation in schools. I'm all for this. It reminded me of my Grandparents who found immense, immense joy in it reciting poetry. It kept their memories sharp but more than this it brought them back to times when they were young - perhaps they were children, or maybe it was that night they met on a London street during the blitz. My Grandmother lived until the age of 94. In that twilight of her life my mother made and printed a book of her favourite poems. I cherish it to this day. When I read the words I am reminded of the power and beauty of language and prose. When I put the book down though the words fly away from me. But my Grandmother didn't need the words in front of her. It was not the words that were etched in her memory but rather their imprint; the imprints were deep, cavernous and they her took her to other worlds.
"Memorize a poem. Find your kindred spirits across the centuries so that — as W. H. Auden counseled — you might, “composed like them/Of Eros and of dust,/Beleaguered by the same/Negation and despair,/Show an affirming flame."
3. The new season of Radio New Zealand's Black Sheep is upon us - a podcast about dark episodes of Aotearoa's history we might rather forget but must, in fact, remember. Season 2 kicks of with Epidemic: the story of Robert Logan - a story about the devastating influenza pandemic that arrived in Apia on 7 November, 1918, via the cargo ship the Talune. The New Zealand Administrator of Samoa at the time, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Logan, failed to quarantine the Talune. This is what he had to say in the aftermath:
"[It is] temporary and, like children, they [Samoans] will get over it provided they are handled with care... They will later on remember all that has been done for them in the previous four years..."
Logan's report on the administration of Western Samoa, 8 August 1919, IT 1/1/1D
4. Remembering can be a dangerous activity and memory a dangerous place. Not just for what might have been done to you there but for how you treat yourself in your own memory. Sometimes, perhaps, the tightrope is the safest place. Psychologist Dr Edith Eger was on Nine to Noon this week talking about her life's work to help free her patients from trauma, guilt, and pain. It is not just her training that has led her to this but her life experience as a survivor of the Holocaust. In the interview she talks about overcoming her own ghosts and feelings of guilt. It reminds us that remembering should not be taken lightly.
5. The realm of memory isn't the past; it lives in the present and in the future. And it can be re-imagined. Which reminds me - have you been to Future Islands at Objectspace?
"Island of memory, island of longing, island of prospect and refuge, island of hospitality, (un)natural island, island of making and unmaking, emerging island, re/claimed island, and the last island — these are the nine islands of New Zealand’s exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016."
"Future Islands, which was New Zealand’s exhibition at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, is about the practice and promise of architecture in this country – a small, open society that is diverse, changing and economically (and seismically) vulnerable. In the exhibition, a grouping of floating forms – light, tough shells fabricated by a boat-building company – occupy a sea of space. Models of more than 50 architectural projects are arranged on or near, these ‘islands’. Some projects sit provisionally on their sites; others seem to have been shaken free of their foundations altogether." http://www.objectspace.org.nz/exhibitions/future-islands-nzia-at-the-venice-biennale/
Speaking of which....