Thursday, April 4, 2013

Telling stories

Mrs Volkner to the left, Gov Grey to the left. Still from UTU above. 

Well, the mystery of the ripped out page (see last blog) turned out to be a trail of confusion. 
In fact the whole situation is a confusion of sources, which can happen very easily in any situation. It's a little like a form of cross-contamination - one thing ends up in the other, growing a kind of culture. 

My last blog could be said to be its latest manifestation, a form of verbal mould.

Thanks to several very good detective friends who managed to get hold of the
Millard book of photographs of Maori tohunga, it turned out there was no 'Kereopa' in the book - so the ripped out page was purely accidental - vandalistic.

In fact what happened was the man who gave the Millard book of photographs also gave the glass negative of a man called "Kereopa" to Te Papa. I have asked for some further details but all I can hear is silence, with the faint echo of an iron shop front trundling downwards. I am not sure why this is. 

There is also a silence from Rangiwewehi, Kereopa's iwi, who were about to make an important announcement about the way they wished to change perceptions of Kereopa Te Rau.

During this time I have got busy on the writing, or as it feels at the moment, assembling of my book. My partner is away in exciting Tokyo so I have taken over the studio - I can spread my wings and create piles everywhere of documents.

Studio invasion - room to breathe

I'm still feeling my way with the tone of this book. I have been reading several masterly histories, notably Dame Judith Binney's 'Encirclement' and Monty Soutar's thesis on Ngati Porou. This is the kind of history I don't want to write, linear, excellent in its own classical way. (The fact is I couldn't write a history like that.) 

What is behind that kind of writing is a mastery of resources which is truly amazing. But I made this note to myself, by way of encouragement.

What is history but a series of stories. Even the most footnoted history is only a piece of made-up logic with each step of the way given a kind of spurious legitimacy that there was a source in the contemporary period. But there is always a choice in which sources to acknowledge and elevate to being the 'true' record while other sources are quietly downgraded into being unreliable, or more accurately, not suiting the purpose of the story-teller who usually has an ideological groundplan embedded in their brain - a kind of ideal but hidden map whose real shape only reveals itself as a kind of lit-up ground plan, much as lights on a darkened runway help pilots land their aircraft by night.

It looks much more orderly than it is....
 I guess I am going with the story telling approach….