Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Humour in ''Kisses in the Nederends''

There is a common point between the reading of the week and my service learning at St Mary’s : humour. Humour tells a lot about people, their homeland, their habits, in other words about their culture. Some people are humourous inspite of themselves as it is the case of the students I work with, as well as some characters in the ‘‘Kisses in the Nederends,’’ which is even more hilarious according to me. For instance, during my previous service-learning at St Mary, the students and I talked, and they were asking me if I knew a particular rapper. I told them that I did not him. All of them started to sing one of his songs and to dance. They were very serious about their dance and proud to show it to me. But I thought it was really funny and I started laughing. They did not intend to make me laugh, however I did because we conceive things in a different way. I think that in this case, humour stemmed from a gap between the way they see their rapper and his music, an important element of their culture and the way I see those elements.

In ‘‘Kisses in the Nederends,’’ there are several comic situations that are the result of a misunderstanding of the Western culture and the Pacific culture. Hau’ofa shows what happens when the elements of Western culture travel to the Pacific islands : the meeting of both cultures is simply hilarious. One of the first instances is the meeting of the faith healer, Rev. Masu Lasu who is a native that has been converted to Christianity, and Oilei who suffers from the lecturer fart. Humour is based on the situation : a Reverend who is supposed to take care of spiritual matters relating to faith is dealing with a man whose problem is farting. The worst is that the Reverend is very serious about this trivial matter. Actually, Hau’ofa opposes the sacred and the grotesque, what is sound to what is vulgar or to put it in another way, the spirit to the body.
Moreover, humour is based on language. There is a huge difference between the way the Reverend speaks and the way Oilei speaks. Language reflects the individual : the Reverend speaks respectfully, whereas Oilei uses a lot of profanities. The author also plays with the symbolic biblical language. Actually, it is no more symbolical but literal. Each time, Oilei deconstructs what the Reverend says. For example, the Reverend states : ‘‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh. He has given you pain and only he can take it away…’’Oilei replies : ‘‘Take your arse out of my house, and don’t bring it back here again. Oh shit’’ (Hau’ofa, 22). Oilei builds on the sentence of the Reverend by using the same word ‘‘take,’’but he twists the symbolic meaning.

Humour also comes from the fact that the author a ridicules the culture of Pacific islanders, and shows that it is not always logical. This is illustrated when Losana, a female healer tries to cure Oilei’s sickness. She justifies his ‘‘fart lecture’’ by saying that ‘‘there is a very nasty, fat, female devil stuck halfway up Oilei’s arse trying to back out’’ (Hau’ofa, 34). Here again, humour is based on the situation : the explanation for Oilei’s sickness is incongruous. Her way of curing Oilei is as illogical as what the faith healer did. She sings incantations, she uses profanities…This situation is funny, especially for Western readers; what is serious and part of the culture of the Pacific characters is made laughable : as I was saying before, we conceive things differently because we don’t have the same cultural references.

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