Monday, August 03, 2020

Rekohu notes




19/7
In one day Rekohu/Chatham/Wharekauri gave us five rainbows. I kept thinking of the back cover of Binney's great biography of Te Kooti, which shows a rainbow over Te Whanga Lagoon. The prophet & his followers escaped from their prison here in 1868, crossing the 'Red Sea' back to Aotearoa.

20/7
I visited the statue of Tommy Solomon, who was falsely called the last Moriori. In the '80s Robin Morrison gathered three of Tommy's grandchildren in front of the statue, & made a famous photo, a symbol of continuity. The energy of the ancestor flows into living flesh and blood.

22/7
In 1835 Rekohu was colonised not by whites, but by two Taranaki iwi. I am used to hearing fellow Pakeha talk about divisive indigenous activists, about the virtues of assimilation. On this island I hear the same words in Ngati Mutunga mouths. I have entered an alternate reality.

23/7
I walked Petre Bay, between sandhills & surf. In 1919 HD Skinner found Maori material on the top dune layers & Moriori middens on the bottom. Thousands of shells still stick out of the sand: I imagine them as old tongues trying to speak over the ignorant roar of the sea.

24/7
The woman who guided me through a Moriori forest said trees can communicate thru roots: can thank, warn. Riding home thru a gale, I wondered: can these bent trees & phone poles talk, or have their tongues become mutually unintelligible, like those of long separated peoples?

25/7
The frail bookworm Jorge Luis Borges used to listen worshipfully while the knife fighters of his native Buenos Aires talked about their trade. I felt like Borges last night, when a man who dives for paua in the feral seas off Rekohu told me the best way to chase off sharks.

27/7
Floating above the tundra of the clouds on the way home from Rekohu, I both hope for & fear severe air turbulence. Only with such tumult could I align myself with the crew of Rangihoua & other waka of ancestors of the Moriori, craft that crossed the southern ocean on storm surges.

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