Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Home+Land = A Really Big Lens

Before, discussions and writings have been directed more towards the sort of homeland that one carries with them. In a fashion, the “home” part of homeland was the focus. Yet Grace shows a different side of the concept of homeland, the “land” aspect; however, Grace does not simply mean land in the literal sense, that which is tilled and sown for food and sustenance. For Grace, and for the Maori, land is very much a part of their being for the single reason that they have given the land their souls.
Uncle Stan’s words to Mr. Dolman ring loud and clear here: “Take away the heart, the soul, and the body crumbles.” For the Maori the land is what they live, eat, sleep, and breathe. This is apparent from the beginning of the story, even from the flavor text found on the back cover. However it cannot be stressed enough how important understanding this concept is, especially for anyone who has not known what it is to have the sweat on your back transformed into sustenance for the people you care for. I personally have not had this joy but a few in our class have lived or live on farms and are well-acquainted with the toil and back-breaking effort required to run a farm even in the modern-day. For students food is purchased with money earned through work, an indirect acquisition, but for the Maori the work and the fruits that it bears are one in the same.
Illustrating the key difference between these two means and peoples is relatively simple but betrays a separation of philosophy larger than life. Is it not possible to survive, to live even if one has no job other than the task of growing one’s own food, without actually having a “real job?” The word poverty (living day to day, in a sense) can be easily applied here, but even as Roimata shows “poverty” might not be the right word. I would hardly call the Maori people poor despite their lack of “employment” or money. Working to grow food for the sake of feeding one’s self and family is not unemployment or poverty; rather, it is a way of eliminating the middleman known as money.
And now the final conclusion can be drawn from this concept of land: before, a homeland has been seen in general as a collection of different homes, where many, many people see the same place as their home in radically different ways. However, here it is seen how a homeland can perhaps be seen as, and again Roimata says this explicitly: “…we could not help but remember that land does not belong to people, but that people belong to land.” A homeland is not just a place that many lenses view. It is also at the same time a lens which encompasses everyone who looks through it, and these two ideas exist in a sort of paradoxical simultaneity. The land to which the soul of the Maori people has been collectively entrusted binds them all together behind one singular purpose and motive to live. Toko sees this clearly, as does Roimata, in the way stories come together and are made one’s own. All the different lenses come together, memories are shared and at the end of the story it feels as if it is your own. Grace illustrates here, especially at the end of Potiki, how the homeland brings to fruition the give-and-take relationship of calling one place home. For the Maori they all have their own stories but in the end they all return to work the same land to provide for all their families, the land in which they believe in so much they bury their dead and revere it as sacred.

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