Rosanne Hawarden's balls-up
Alerted by chance finds of the bones of moa and humans, archaeologists began to excavate Wairau Bar seventy years ago. Decades of digs uncovered enough skeletons and artefacts to provide a detailed picture of the life of the ancient 'moa hunters'. The moa was wiped out within a couple of centuries of the arrival of Polyniesians in New Zealand, so the remains of moa-hunting settlements are particularly prized by the scholars of this country's pre-history. The artefacts found at Wairau Bar confirm the antiquity of the site because, like the artefacts left by the tchakat henu of the Chatham Islands, they remind scholars of the material culture of ancient Eastern Polynesian, rather than the 'classical' Maori culture which developed in New Zealand in the centuries immediately preceding the arrival of Cook. Wairau Bar provided much of the raw material for important studies of New Zealand prehistory like Roger Duff's The Moa-Hunter Period of Maori Culture.
But the tangata whenua of Wairau Bar and its environs never felt comfortable with the excavation of such an important part of their rohe. Seventy years ago, their complaints went unheeded by archaeologists; in recent years, though, their voices have been heard, and last month a team of archaeologists, museum workers, and members of the Rangitane iwi reburied scores of ancient skeletons at Wairau Bar. According those who witnessed it, the reburial was an emotional affair, which helped to reconcile the Rangitane community with scholars of New Zealand's prehistory.
One person who has been unimpressed with the reburials at Wairau Bar is Rosanne Hawarden, an Afrikaaner who emigrated to New Zealand in the mid-90s and has since become the chairwoman of the South Island New Zealand Association of Southern Africans, a candidate for the right-wing Independent Voice coalition in Christchurch local body elections, and a self-proclaimed expert on New Zealand history. Although she has no academic training in any relevant field, Hawarden is convinced that much of what experts believe about this country's past is false. She has become a disciple of Gavin Menzies, the retired British naval officer who claims that fifteenth century Chinese 'discovered' much of the world, including New Zealand, and insists that Maori are the descendants of Melanesian slaves and Chinese prostitutes. As the leader of the grandly-titled '1421 Pacific Research Group', Hawarden asked to attend the reburial ceremony at Wairau Bar. Hawarden appears to believe that some of the bodies being reinterred at Wairau Bar might have been those of the Chinese sailors who were supposedly the first people to set foot on these shores.
When she was denied permission to attend the reburial, Hawarden began to bombard people associated with the operation with e mails, and to post denunciations of the enterprise on internet discussion sites. She appears to have established an entire website to publicise her views on the subject.
Hawarden seems to believe that the reburial is an elaborate conspiracy designed to obscure the truth about New Zealand's prehistory and cement the status of Rangitane as the tangata whenua of the area around Wairau Bar. If the true nature of the bones were revealed, then Rangitane's Treaty claim would be in jeopardy:
The need to rebury the bones has to be seen in the context of this claim. The question "where's the money" always produces interesting answers and when one realises that $79 million divided between 4000 people is at stake here, the light dawns. Destroying some priceless archaeology to invent some ancestors may seem worth the price to many.
Hawarden's claims are based on a misunderstanding of the concept of tangata whenua. Like their Kai Tahu cousins to the south of Malborough, Rangitane make no claim to be the descendants of the very first people to arrive in the South Island. They took ownership of Malborough hundreds of years ago, as a result of conquest and the assimilation of some groups of prior inhabitants, and have been recognised as tangata whenua because of their long history of residence there. As tanagata whenua, Rangitane are recognised as guardians of all of the ancient skeletons which are found within their rohe. Hawarden might disagree with this arrangement, but she cannot credibly argue that Rangitane's status as tangata whenua would be endangered if the skeletons found at Wairau Bar did not belong to their ancestors.
Hawarden seems to find the very idea of the reburial at Wairau Bar to be distasteful:
Like cannabalism, the practice of digging up the deceased and having their actual skeletal remains on view for social occasions/rituals should have ceased. These are cultural practices that are considered inappropriate in our modern society.
What comments like these overlook is the fact that Rangitane are only seeking to rebury the human remains that were taken without consent from their rohe. They are burying the skeletons that were dug up by outsiders, not digging up bones and reburying them for the sake of it. Would Hawarden prefer that the bones from Wairau Bar remained lying about in museum storage rooms?
The website Hawarden has set up about Waiaru Bar is full of false claims about basic features of Maori and Polynesian history. Hawarden defies decades of careful study when she asserts that there is 'no evidence' that the skeletons found at Wairau Bar are 'Polynesian'. What about the classically Polynesian features of the skeletons, and the Polynesian adzes and jewellery buried with them?
Suggesting that the people who were buried at Wairau Bar may have been 'Taiwanese, Chinese, Indonesian, South East Asian, or Hindu', Hawarden insists that 'DNA studies have shown some New Zealand Maori groups to have DNA similar to some Taiwanese people'. This culpably dishonest claim, which has often been made by Gavin Menzies himself, is an attempt to misrepresent the findings of the series of DNA tests that have established a connection between the Austronesian ancestors of the Polynesians and the (non-Chinese) indigenous people of Taiwan. Thanks to these tests, we now know that the people who eventually became Polynesians entered the Pacific region from the coast of southeast Asia around four thousand years ago. It is quite wrong to try to use the DNA trail which traces the Polynesians' ancestors back to Asia housands of years ago to suggest that Chinese fleets arrived in this country in the fifteenth century.
Lately this blog has been witness to Rosanne Hawarden's wrath. In the discussion thread under my post about the 'Celtic' boulders at Silverdale, Keri Hulme referred to the 'Menzies wingnuts' who believe that the South Island's famous Moeraki boulders 'are ballast or cannonballs'. Hawarden replied thus:
Keri, it is advisable to get your facts right before trashing others or you make a fool of yourself, as you have done here by showing your ignorance of nautical matters.
No one at 1421 has ever claimed that Moeraki boulders were ballast nor will they. No sailor worth his salt would use round stone balls as ballast as he would very quickly sink his ship as the ballast rolled to and fro.
Can you please apologise to us via this forum for your error and unnecessarily abusive language?
Rosanne Hawarden 1421 Pacific Research Group
Moeraki is a small settlement on the coastal road between Christchurch and Dunedin, and the unusual roundness and smoothness of the boulders on its beach has convinced many tourists to stop and snap a few photos. One of those tourists was Cedric Bell, a retired British oil engineer who visited New Zealand for a relaxing holiday a few years ago. Early on in his trip, Bell read Gavin Menzies' tome 1421 and became convinced that the South Island had been the site of a forgotten Chinese civilisation. After discovering an ancient Chinese fort during a picnic in Christchurch's botanical gardens, Bell circumnavigated Te Wai Pounamu, noticing the remains of over forty Chiense forts, ports, and towns en route. Bell's findings were reproduced in excruciating detail on Gavin Menzies' website.
At Moeraki Cedric Bell gathered a particularly rich haul of evidence: he examined the cliffs near the beach, and decided that they were full of the remains of an ancient junk. Speaking to an unfortunate journalist, Bell found an ingenious explanation for the fact that these 'remains' consisted of little more than mud and twigs:
Mr Bell told the Ashburton Guardian there was evidence that a huge tsunami had hit the coast of New Zealand about 1422. The tsunami had been caused by a meteorite, which was believed to have landed in the sea south of Stewart Island.
Mr Bell said he had...taken material from the outline of what he believed was the remains of a junk. The material had proved to be burned timber...“I believe the junk was on fire, due to the meteorite, and was swept ashore by the tsunami,” he said. The tsunami had actually created the cliffs at Wakanui and further along the Mid Canterbury coast, he added. “The coast was probably just low sandhills before that,” he said. Both Cedric Bell and Gavin Menzies appear to have decided that the famous boulders on Moeraki beach were also connected to Chinese junks. The Moeraki stones make several appearances in a long list of pieces of 'evidence' for ancient Chinese contact with New Zealand posted at Menzies' site. The author of the list suggests that the balls on Moeraki beach were man-made 'counter-weights to the hoist-sails of junks'. One set of boulders 'arranged in a very straight line' were 'ballasts' for the junks.
When the Listener ran an article about Menzies and his followers, it talked to Rosanne Hawarden about her role as the man's chief advocate in New Zealand:
Christchurch resident Rosanne Hawarden was “hooked” after reading Menzies’s book and has run the country’s voluntary 1421 research group for the past 18 months.
Seeing 1421 as “an alternative and coming paradigm”, the self-described Sinophile concedes that her 20- to 30-strong group are “just at the beginning of definitively establishing the presence of the Chinese in New Zealand”. Among their “mountain of work” is investigating the Moeraki boulders as potential cannonballs, or weights for treasure-ships’ sails...
We might be charitable, and assume that Rosanne Hawarden had not read all of the claims on Gavin Menzies' website when she insisted that 'no one at 1421 has ever claimed the boulders at Moeraki were ballast'. Presumably she will now get in touch with Gavin and Cedric and demand the excision of the absurd claim about ballast stones from her movement's website. It is difficult, though, to fathom why Hawarden would be offended by the absurdity of the idea that the Moeraki boulders were ballast, when she can entertain the even more absurd notion that these enormous balls of solid rock might have been fired out of cannons mounted on a fifteenth century Chinese junk.
The connections between the pseudo-scholars of the 'Celtic New Zealand circle' and the far right are by now well-documented. Rosanne Hawarden's response to the Wairau Bar reburial and a number of her other public statements suggest that her pseudo-scholarship and her politics might also be connected. In a statement she issued to support for candidacy in Christchurch's 2007 local body elections, Hawarden talks about how happy she is to live in such a 'civilised' city, rather than in her old home, which is 'unravelling' due to 'crime, pollution, and corruption'. Hawarden says she 'fought' for democracy in South Africa, but laments that 'democracy is no guarantee of good governance'.
In an interview with The Press last year, Hawarden expressed her reservations about democracy in South Africa in a little more detail. Hawarden explained that many Afrikaaners were fleeing to New Zealand to escape the effects of black rule, and that if 'Zuma is elected President' then South Africa could well face 'a form of civil war'.
It is unclear exactly what unnerves Hawarden about Jacob Zuma and his African National Congress party, which led the opposition to apartheid, took power peacefully after the implosion of that system, and has pursued neo-liberal economic policies during its decade and a half in power. Zuma's ascension to the leadership of the ANC owes much to black dissatisfaction at the determinedly business-friendly policies of Mbeki and Mandela, but his programme of increased government intervention in the economy and increased social spending is hardly revolutionary.
Some of the links on the website of the organisation that Hawarden leads might offer a clue as to the cause of her unease with Jacob Zuma and the ANC. Under its list of 'South African Organisations', for instance, SINZASA links to the 'Rhodesian Embassy of Thailand', which appears to be the headquarters of a group of admirers of the white supremacist government which ruled the country now known as Zimbabwe in the 1960s and '70s. The Embassy's webpage includes a portrait of Ian Smith, the
virulently racist leader of Rhodesia, and claims that the black guerillas who fought against apartheid in Rhodesia were 'communists' and 'terrorists'. SINZASA claims that it devotes most of its work to helping new Afrikaaner immigrants settle into New Zealand society. It seems to me that the organisation's leader has some work of her own to do before she learns how to live in a bicultural nation like New Zealand.