Maori renaissance

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The Role of the Maori Writers Patricia Grace and Witi Ihimaera During The Maori Renaissance

1 Introduction
Although New Zealand has been settled in and colonized since the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was not until the 1970s that the first English-language Maori literary works appeared. This fact raises a number of questions. First of all, why did it take so long, and even moreinterestingly, why did the first Maori work in the English language emerge just at that time? Keown suggests that "the emergence of an anglophone Maori literary tradition […] was the product of the immense changes in Maori society that took place following the end of the Second World War." (Keown 2007: 138) This statement offers an answer, but also poses a number of questions. What immense changes inMaori society is Keown referring to? In any case, these changes were not to the advantage of the Maori people. However, the Maori were able to react to those changes and improve their situation. This movement is often referred to as the ‘Maori Renaissance’, because it led to a sort of rebirth of the Maori people and their traditional values. Although it was mainly artists who acted as thespearheads of this movement, as Williams puts forth, it "cannot, however, be divorced from its political and historical context." (Williams 2009: 1). That is why in chapter 2 I shall give a brief overview of the historical events that led to the Maori Renaissance and I shall also consider the different facets and ideas of the Maori Renaissance. But the main issue of this essay will be to address howartists, especially writers, can be the spearheads of a movement that involves the social improvements of an entire race. How was it possible for literature to make such a vast contribution in bringing about permanent change to the whole society of New Zealand? As New Zealand consists of two different ethnic groups - namely the descendants of white settlers called Pakeha and the native Polynesianpopulation called the Maori – the literature

3 has to address both groups in order to bring about change in the society as a whole. I am therefore going to analyze a number of literary works and examine their impact on the Maori and Pakeha. The interpreted stories try to draw a picture of the Maori people and depict their moral values and beliefs. This is done either explicitly like in Ihimaera'sThe Whale Rider or implicitly like in Patricia Grace's story Holiday. These works specifically try to generate a greater level of understanding of the Maori among the Pakeha population. Other works are particularly directed to a Maori audience, as they attempt to remind them of their roots and their inherited identity, thus trying to boost their confidence and strength. The main part is subdividedinto three smaller parts. The first deals with the Maori concepts of tribes, the family and the community and analyses the traditional importance of kinship within Maori culture, while the second part illustrates the different attitudes towards land. It is particularly interesting for Pakeha who want to understand why Maori still vehemently refuse to leave their ancestral land, although they areoffered financial compensation. On the basis of Patricia Grace's Journey, I am going to work out why there is no land "equal" to the Maori. In the final part of my essay I am going to analyze how the writers of the Maori Renaissance manage to use literature to encourage their people to be proud of their descent. There would have been many more aspects worth analyzing in Maori Renaissance writing,for example the revival of the Maori language after it had slowly vanished in the course of the century, or how the belief in a certain individual destiny and purpose keeps the Maori grounded. A closer look at some traditional myths and the values they teach would also be a worthwhile area of study. However, the scope of this paper is limited, and I am going to focus on some key aspects in...
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