Tuesday October 24, 2017

If Gods can be gay, why can’t we? Maori author Witi Ihimaera is a moving force in giving voice to Maoris in New Zealand

Ihimaera's book 'Nights in the Gardens of Spain', a semi-autobiographical work about a married father of two daughters coming out, was turned into a movie

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Witi Ihimaera. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

– by Preetha Nair

Sept 04, 2016: Aboriginal, litterateur, and rebel, Witi Ihimaera is a moving force in giving voice to the Maoris in New Zealand. The first published novelist in Maori literature, the 72-year-old has several novels, short stories and recognitions to his credit.

September Aboriginal, litterateur, and rebel, Witi Ihimaera is a moving force in giving voice to the Maoris in New Zealand. The first published novelist in Maori literature, the 72-year-old has several novels, short stories and recognitions to his credit.

His works were a harbinger of change to the Maoris, says Ihimaera who questioned in his works.

Ihimaera’s book ‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain’, a semi-autobiographical work about a married father of two daughters coming out, was turned into a movie.

The author, who also worked as a diplomat at the New ZealandMinistry of Foreign Affairs, spoke to IANS on the sidelines of Mountain Echoes Literary Festival held in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.

Maori People. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Maori People. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Excerpts from the interview:

Q) You were the first published novelist in Maori literature. How important is it to tell stories of the marginalised?

A) It is important to tell the story of the Maori in a world of huge voices and political entities. We are a minority, and also one among the many indigenous communities around the world. Our story will help give voice to other indigenous people whether they live in India, or North America or in South East Asia. We all have the same stories of colonisation.

Q) Did you face resistance from the West?

A) My life was always about resistance. We were denied educational opportunities and there was institutional racism. Our land has been taken away and I have seen my grandmothers struggling for land to farm. The consequence of our fight through literature and other means was that our land was returned after 30 years. The government is providing better housing and education for the Maoris now. There is a better understanding of Maori culture now and my work is a part of New Zealand’s curriculum.

Q) You came out of the closet in 1984 and have dealt with sexuality in your writings. How was it received?

A) One has to be brave when dealing with issues like rape and homosexuality. There is authentication of sexual identity in mythology that has been denied by the West. Europeans look towards Gods in Greek mythology who can shapeshift and make love with women, men and animals just like some Hindu gods. Why can’t we accept homosexuality in the way our mythology explains it? I operate in a Maori value system and don’t care what people say.

Witi Ihimaera memorial plaque in Dunedin. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Witi Ihimaera memorial plaque in Dunedin. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Q) In your memoir, you have written about being abused as a child. How difficult was it to write about it and what was the reaction?

A) I always adopt an organic approach to writing, looking at it culturally and socially. I wanted to address the issue of child abuse. My work has always been a shock to many. The Maori community is now largely Christian and it was difficult for them to acknowledge it. I am accustomed to shift the universe a little. That’s my theory of change. Each one of us has the power to change the system.

Q) Who’s your favourite Indian author?

A) It should be Arundhati Roy. She is an intellectual and erudite woman.

(IANS)

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Listening for Well-being : Arun Maira Talks About a Democracy in Crisis, Unsafe Social Media and More in his Latest Book

Maira asserts that we must learn to listen more deeply to 'people who are not like us' in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race.

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Arun Maira
Arun Maira (extreme left), during a public event in 2009. Wikimedia
  • Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira’s latest book is titled ‘Listening for Well-Being’
  • Maira observes that physical and verbal violence in the world and on social media is continuously growing
  • He also highlights the importance of ‘hearing each other’ in order to create truly inclusive and democratic societies

New Delhi, September 5, 2017 : Former Planning Commission member Arun Maira contends that “physical violence” in the real world and “verbal violence” on social media against people whom “we do not approve of” are increasing today. With such trends on the rise, the very idea of democracy finds itself in a crisis.

The solution?

“We need to listen more deeply to people who are not like us,” said the much-respected management consultant, talking of his latest book, “Listening for Well-Being”, and sharing his perspective on a wide range of issues that he deals with.

“Violence by people against those they dislike, for whatever reason, is increasing. It has become dangerous to post a personal view on any matter on social media. Responses are abusive. There is no respect for another’s dignity. People are also repeatedly threatened with physical violence.”

He said that gangs of trolls go after their victims viciously. “Social media has become a very violent space. Like the streets of a run-down city at night… not a safe space to roam around in.”

At the same time, streets in the physical world are becoming less safe too. “Any car or truck on the road can suddenly become a weapon of mass destruction in a ‘civilised’ country: in London, Berlin, Nice, or Barcelona,” Maira told IANS in an interview.

Maira said that with the rise of right-wing parties that are racist and anti-immigrant, there is great concern in the Western democratic world — in the US, the UK and Europe — that democracy is in a crisis.

In the US, for example, supporters of Donald Trump, Maira said, believe only what Trump says and watch only the news channels that share a similar ideology. On the other side are large numbers of US citizens who don’t believe what Trump says but they too have their own preferred news sources.

“They should listen to each other, and understand each other’s concerns. Only then can the country be inclusive. And also truly democratic — which means that everyone has an equal stake and an equal voice,” he noted.

In “Listening for Well-Being” (Rupa/Rs 500/182 Pages), Arun Maira shows his readers ways to use the power of listening. He analyses the causes for the decline in listening and proposes solutions to increase its depth in private and public discourse.

Drawing from his extensive experience as a leading strategist, he emphasises that by listening deeply, especially to people who are not like us, we can create a more inclusive, just, harmonious and sustainable world for everyone.

But it would be wrong to say that the decline in listening is only restricted to the Western world.

“We have the same issues in India too. We are a country with many diverse people. We are proud of our diversity. However, for our country to be truly democratic, all people must feel they are equal citizens.

“The need for citizens to listen to each other is much greater in India than in any other country because we are the most diverse country, and we want to be democratic. So, we must learn to listen more deeply to ‘people who are not like us’ in our country because of their history, their culture, their religion, or their race,” he maintained.

Maira also said that India is a country with a very long and rich history. And within the present boundaries of India are diverse people, with different cultures, different religions, and of different races.

“So, we cannot put too sharp a definition on who is an ‘Indian’ — the language they must speak, the religion they must follow, or the customs they must adopt. Because, then we will exclude many who do not have the same profiles, and say they are not Indians. Thus we can falsely, and dangerously, divide the country into ‘real Indians’ and those who are supposedly non-Indians. Indeed, such forces are rising in India,” he added.

Maira, 74, hoped that all his readers will appreciate that listening is essential to improve the world for everyone. He also maintained that it is not a complete solution to any of the world’s complex problems but by listening to other points of view, we can prevent conflict and also devise better solutions.

Born in Lahore, Arun Maira received his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Physics from Delhi University’s St Stephen’s College. He has also authored two bestselling books previously, “Aeroplane While Flying: Reforming Institutions” and “Upstart in Government: Journeys of Change and Learning”. (IANS)

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These 2 Indian Families Have Kept Their Culture Alive in Timaru City of New Zealand

Registered in 2012, the Cultural Society helps promoting Indian cultural celebrations along with all the diverse communities

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Keeping Hindu Culture Alive
Very few Indian reside in Timaru city, New Zealand. Wikimedia
  • The South Canterbury Indian Cultural Society bagged the award for arts and culture by the Trustpower Timaru District Community Awards
  • Very few Indians live in Timaru but they show cooperation and solidarity when it comes to celebrating Indian festivals
  • Battu and Hari family are an example of the Indians keeping their culture alive in a foreign land

New Zealand, August 23, 2017: In the recent 2017 Trustpower Timaru District Community Awards for New Zealand, South Canterbury Indian Cultural Society bagged the winner’s prize in the arts and culture category. The award recognizes the efforts put in by the Cultural Society to spread its cultural celebrations with the majority of the people.

Post the victory, Timaru Herald’s reporter Rachael Comer visited two humble and welcoming Timaru Indian families. Her purpose was to investigate how miles away from the homeland to a strange land, the families have successfully kept their cultural identity alive.

ALSO READ: Differently-abled Indian girl wins New Zealand achievement award

The first door that the reporter knocked was the Battu Family. In September 2011, Akhil Battu along with wife Ravinder Battu moved to the Timaru city with their three-month-old daughter. Hailing from Punjab, the Battus resided in Auckland. But after four months, Primeport Timaru offered Akhil a job.

Akhil, who is a marine engineer, has traveled to many parts of the world. For a long time, he had stayed away from home. But now that he has his own family, he chose New Zealand to start a settled life.

The Battus have settled well with their two daughters Mannat and Mehar, who are six and two years old respectively. While the Kiwi lifestyle has been great for the Battu family, the Indian couple has not forgotten their culture.

Their decor of their house is an Indian and New Zealand mix. Many of the items, including the curtains, are Indian.

The couple also dines on Indian cuisine throughout the week. The daughters carry Indian cuisine for school lunch. However, it is not enforced on the children, it is them who love the Indian food. Mannat even shared how her friends at school love her lunch.

The couple also ensures to speak their native language and have explained to the children about the importance of knowing multiple languages. Punjabi is the most preferred language of use at home.

The couple prefers to have a spiritual belief rather than a religious belief. The whole family does meditation on a daily basis. The parents, as well as the kids, watch Indian TV channels. They are also vegetarian.

Mr. Battu admitted that his pay grade in India was better than his job in New Zealand, but he wanted a higher standard of living for his family.

The couple agrees that the few Indians who live in Timaru are extremely cooperative.

Next was the Hari family who had been living for quite some years now in the Timaru City. In 2003, Kashyap Hari hailing from Gujarat, came to Timaru when there very few Indians. Hari worked as a chartered accountant in the same firm as his brother.

He did go back to India in 2008 and went to a function with his parents where young girls and boys could meet. That is where he met his wife, Namrata. The couple got married and came to Timaru.

Namrata expressed her amazement as she recalls how she had never been out of India. She felt different initially but gradually settled.

The couple now live in Timaru with their two children. The Hindu family is strictly religious. Kashyap Hari imported a copper temple from India where the family prays every early morning. The family usually lights a candle while praying.

The family’s favorite food includes dahi, chapati, and rice. The family also celebrates a number of Hindu festivals to keep their culture alive.

The South Canterbury Indian Cultural Society:

Registered in 2012, the Cultural Society helps to promote Indian cultural celebrations along with all the diverse communities. Many Indian festivals such as Holi, Rakhi, Navratri, Diwali etc. are hosted by the Society for all of the New Zealand to enjoy. On the Diwali celebrations, more than 500 visitors come to the event.

Indian hospitality, including singing, dancing and Indian food is exclusive to these events. It is a sincere effort to promote the Hindu culture.

– Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter @Saksham2394


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

 

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Nazi Protests in American Soil and Obsession with Jews: “Unite the Right” Rally in Charlottesville (US) suffuses with Anti-Semitism and Anti-Black Racism Logic

This Saturday, However, was not like the usual Saturdays. In the world outside, Swastikas were being displayed and slogans were being shouted

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Anti Semitism and white supremacy
A man holding up a sign reading "Deplorables and Alt-Right Unite". Wikimedia
  • “Unite the Right” rally on August 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia was about protecting a statue of Robert E. Lee
  • The rally soon suffused with anti-black racism and anti-Semitism
  • President Trump blamed both the sides for the violence 

New Delhi, August 23, 2017: The “Unite the Right” rally On Saturday, August 12, in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was seemingly about protecting a statue of Robert E. Lee, spreading the message of white supremacy, was soon suffused with anti-black racism and anti-Semitism.

Saturday evening in a Jewish home is a sight to watch. Some look forward to restart their work, others pleased to use their cell phones again. Whatever it be, the end of Sabbath is an auspicious time when the holiness leaves, giving way to the regular week again. One makes the best of this time, to be able to deliver the approaching week happily, the reason why people at this time wish each other a “Shauva Tov,” or a good week.

This Saturday, However, was not like the usual Saturdays. In the world outside, Swastikas were being displayed and slogans were being shouted.

“I was in Israel and as I breathed the spices our sages teach us to comfort our soul while we lose our Shabbat spirits, this ritual barely prepared me for the news that was waiting on the other side. I turned my phone on, only to learn that a rally of White Supremacists and neo-Nazis took place in Charlottesville, Virginia and that those in attendance were shouting that ‘Jews will not replace us’ I realized immediately that it was not, in fact, going to be a shavua tov,” Said Jessica Spengler in a report published in Manhattan Jewish Experience website.

President Trump, two days later, blamed both the sides for the violence in Charlottesville. “I think there is blame on both sides. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now,” He said, according to The New York Times report.

In a reaction to which, “Our president not only held counter-protesters to the same moral deficiency as the Nazis themselves but also claimed that not all people at the Unite The Right rally were antisemites. That might technically be true but not the kind of unequivocal condemnation of racism and bigotry we need to hear from the top,” Jessica mentioned.

ALSO READ: Jewish cemetery becomes the fresh hunt of rising Antisemitism in US

“I rarely speak of Israel as a safe haven also since America has been a safe option for Jews for as long as I’ve been alive. The 1800’s saw large waves of immigration to the land of Israel due to the pogroms occurring in Eastern Europe. The rising anti-Semitism reinforced in Europe by 20th century Fascism brought, even more, refugees to what would eventually become the Jewish State. But here’s the kicker: as a Jewish American, I never had to put myself in their shoes. After all, we live in America! But the images of white supremacists and neo-Nazis marching with swastikas in America in 2017 jolted me and got me thinking…maybe Israel is still needed as a safe haven even for us?” Jessica who’s herself a Jew living in America added.

Jessica believes it’s our responsibility to confront racism and all forms of bigotry, particularly anti-Semitism. She finds it important to speak against the bigotry in America but holds, that to continue to strengthen Israel is equally essential.

– prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha