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On Peaceful Tomorrows

Tënä rawa atu tätou katoa. Kia ora rawa atu koe, Margaret, mö tö manaaki me tö arahi mai i a mätou i tënei rangi, mö ënei kaupapa whakahirahira. He mihi aroha ki a koutou katoa ngä kaikörero, me ngä kaimahi o PMA, nä koutou te karanga kia tü anö tätou ki runga i te atamira o te rangimarie. [1] (I greet us all, especially you Margaret, for your care and guidance towards us today and around such significant and important events and subjects. A greeting of love to all of you, the previous speakers, and to the workers of Peace Movement Aotearoa - from you the call came for us to stand again on the platform of peace.)

I am a writer, and yet it's so hard to know what to say. So my offering today is a quick story, and a song. In my writing, I'm often confronted with the dilemma of autobiography - if something terrible has happened to me at the hands of someone else, and I want to write about that, how do I do it? Even if I fictionalise all the details, make her hair blonde, make his eyes brown, people will know, won't they? They will read themselves between the lines - even, sometimes, when it's not them I am writing about at all.

And sometimes, I admit, I really want that. I want them to feel some of the pain and humiliation I have suffered at their hands. I write a poem, I might even mention the person's name if I'm feeling particularly hurt, and then I imagine publication in the Listener, or even the Woman's Weekly, something with a wide, wide circulation.

I say to myself 'It's important for these stories to be told. Where would we be without Alice Walker, without Adrienne Rich, without Keri Hulme, Sylvia Plath, Sharon Olds, Sia Figel - all the women writers I admire who speak the things that we're told to keep quiet, about abuse and violence perpertrated in silence.' This is all true - where would we be without such women?

But there's a larger lesson for me, I think, in all this. It's about how I react when harm is done to me. It's about the intention behind those actions and reactions of mine and it's about trying in my life to do no further harm than has already been done. Please forgive me - I'm not trying to reduce these terribly large and global issues down to just an anecdote - I guess it's just that my daily life is my main reference point, because I'm fortunate enough not to have direct experience of the kinds of war that we did experience in this country, and that millions of people are enduring every day.

This song is a farewell to the dead ... kia ora mai tätou ...

Ngä Wehenga ©
(for Barbara Ringiao)

Bones, in this place the soles of my feet are not null;
how must I walk? My throat has not woven the call.
My throat has not spoken the harakeke. The north,

you say, is thick with it - open-mouthed for the host
but not so silenced in the throat. In this kitchen
violence placed its thumbs on the bud of the call;

in this garden violence pinched us back.
The softness drops from your forehead,
shame darkens my mouth to a museum,

to a purple gallery of pühä and päua
and the sounds of these things
that keep a family well-fed

and its friends at your table
in the singing summer.

Haere atu rä, haere atu rä
e hine
kua ea rä, kua ea rä

kua tae ki te wä
mö ngä wehenga

Tü tonu ngä räkau
Tü tonu te maunga - Hikurangi

e hika e
Waiapu te awa e rere rä

e rere rä
aue ...
Kia tangihia, e rere rä
ngä roimata, e

Ki te whäea, ki te whenua,

e whero rä
Ki te whäea, ki te whenua,

e whero rä, haere rä, haere rä

moe mai rä, haere rä, haere rä

e hika e, moe mai rä, haere rä

Haere rä. Haere rä.

(Goodbye, farewell
go, e hine
Death has been answered,
The time has come for
the separations

Trees - stand
Hikurangi mountain -

my friend
Waiapu is the flowing
flowing still

That we may grieve
let the tears fall

To the mother, to the
the reddening earth
To the mother, to the earth
the reddening earth, farewell
sleep now, farewell,farewell

my friend, sleep now, go now

Go.   Go.)

Nä reira koutou te hunga mate ki te hunga mate, ko tätou te hunga ora ki te hunga ora, kia ora rawa atu tätou katoa.

Hinemoana Baker
Reflections on 11 September: Visions of a Peaceful World, 11 September 2002

Ngä Wehenga © Hinemoana Baker, December 1994. All rights reserved. Permission to use the lyrics, or any part thereof, should be obtained from the author email.

[1] Note re Mäori text: in written Mäori, a macron (a flat line over a vowel) is used to indicate a double vowel sound, for example Ngä = Ngaa. Unfortunately our html editor does not have macronised fonts, so each macron in this text appears as an umlaut).

11 September 2002 in Aotearoa / New Zealand


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