23 January 2018: Being in London gives me the privilege of being in the centre of one of the most multicultural places in the world. This provides ample opportunities to discover multiple cultures, identities, and expressions. I am very grateful to have met many people from different countries, cultures, ethnicities, political views, religions, etc. and I am keen to explore in what ways people can portray this sense of identity through art and celebrate it. This time through poetry, but widening the lens as to how that certain person connects to the text and how it relates to their selves and where they come from. I intend to take this space to celebrate everyone and to learn more about them - please enjoy their poetry recital and make sure to read their writings of how it connects to them on a personal level. I plan on collecting all these recitals and create a special album dedicated to celebrating diversity, but in the mean time I will be posting it here. Please enjoy!
#1 Corporal Tofulung: Read and listen here.
This first submission provides insight into Māori poetry by Hone Tuwhare, recited by Corporal Tofulung, an experienced voice performer currently based in London. Hone Tuwhare is a figure we must not dismiss when we discuss symbolic production in the struggles of power, specifically those that wish to define “Māori” culture - why is “Māori culture" only represented through artwork accepted by those “approved” to represent the Māori?
“Hone Tuwhare (1922 — 2008) is New Zealand’s pre-eminent Maori poet; his tribal affiliations are with Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Korokoro, Ngāti Tautahi, Te Popote and Uri-o-Hau. From a working class background (at fifteen he was apprenticed as a New Zealand Railways boilermaker), his poetry was a form of socialism. Socialism, tribalism, worker solidarity, accusations of bastardising the Maori language: Hone Tuwhare was getting into hot water as far back as 1957 for his poetry and his beliefs: the then Minister of Maori Affairs censored an early Tuwhare poem because he was at that time a card-carrying Communist.” (The Poetry Archive).
The claims of him “bastardising” the Maori language posed further questions of the extent of acceptable artwork. What constitutes “acceptable” art representing Māori culture?
His story poses questions of censorship regarding “indigenousness” that is filtered by the hegemonic power. We can observe this in various cultures. For instance, we can see the case of Wetruwe Mapuche in Chile that struggles to reclaim their land from the Chilean government whereas it is inherently part of their culture (“When we recover lands we plant crops, breed animals and reconstruct our cultural world.”), but the government “approves” other aspects of their culture (such as jewelry and music) that supports the idea of them as the exotic “other” for the sake of tourism (Rommens, 2017). As an Indonesian and Javanese, I am also aware of the extent of how the touristic appeal of the Javanese is constructed by gamelan and batik, to the extent that batik represents Indonesia (I argue this is problematic because it implies Javanese "batik" is enough to represent Indonesian diversity, but that is for another discussion), but the hegemonic power avoids acknowledging Javanese ancestral beliefs. I argue that one should be reminded that colonization is not solely about race but also prevalent within those who share the same skin color, to the extent that the powerful aims to dominate the ownership of symbolic production even if they are categorized in the same cultural or collective identity.