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Showing posts from November, 2012

History, Literature and the AUP Anthology

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It hasn’t even been officially launched yet, but already the AUP Anthology of New Zealand Literature is generating considerable controversy. Critics reckon Maori, South Islanders and other minority groups are underrepresented, while graduates of the Manhire school, among others, are supposedly overrepresented. For Bookman Beattie, the most surprising omission is Michael King. Paula Green has noted the less than adequate coverage of New Zealand historians generally: no Judith Binney, James Belich, Anne Salmond or Claudia Orange. Keith Sinclair does get a look in, but only as a poet. Apirana Ngata is here, but not Ranginui Walker.
I doubt that even the editors would suggest they have provided anything like representative coverage of non-fiction New Zealand history writing. But that got me thinking about the relationship between history and literature. If the former is a subset of the latter, then surely it is entitled to fair representation in works such as this; if it is not, then why i…

Flying the Flag: The Maiki Hill Flagstaff, Kororareka

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Hone Heke was a man of his word. He had promised the governor he would put up a new flagstaff on Maiki Hill after felling the old one in July 1844. But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t chop it down again if necessary. And again, and again. Down she came. For the fourth time. It was March 1845.


Pandemonium ensued. A smoker dropped ash on some kegs of gunpowder, causing the whole magazine to blow. Heke had no truck with the settlers. His warriors even helped some of them flee town. But now it was too late to go back. It was a question of mana.
Kororareka. The Hell-hole of the Pacific, they reckoned. Today it is refined, posh Russell. But the past lingers everywhere. It’s like a living museum.
The British never did re-erect their flagstaff. Maori did it instead, in 1858. They had made their point. The flagstaff would be a token of reconciliation, not a symbol of sovereignty. They called it ‘Te Whakakotahitanga’, the binding together. The government preferred to see it as a sign of submission. N…

The Invasion of Parihaka, 5 November 1881: An Eyewitness Account

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On 5 November 1881 Native Minister John Bryce led 1600 Armed Constabulary into the South Taranaki settlement of Parihaka, arresting leaders Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi. Over the following weeks the remaining residents were forcibly dispersed and the settlement destroyed. The ‘crime’ of the people of Parihaka had been to peacefully resist the confiscation of their lands.

Over the years, these events have been described — and the enormous injustice that occurred — exposed in a number of secondary works. These include George Rusden’s 1883 History of New Zealand, Dick Scott’s influential account Ask That Mountain (1975), Hazel Riseborough’s Days of Darkness (1989), and Rachel Buchanan’s The Parihaka Album (2010).

Yet our knowledge of these events would be much the poorer were it not for the actions of two journalists, Samuel Crombie-Brown (or Croumbie-Brown in some versions) and a Mr Humphries, who both, defying Bryce’s extraordinary efforts to prevent any reporters from being pr…