Friday, April 18, 2014

Time for archetypes

About this time last year, on a uncomfortably hot and yet windy and wet day, I was sitting in Escape, the aptly named, because air-conditioned, cafe in central Nuku’alofa, listening to several Tongans talk about Clive Edwards, a veteran and controversial player in their country’s political scene. 
Edwards has sometimes been called the Winston Peters of Tonga, but his career makes the leader of New Zealand First look like a paragon of consistency. For nearly three decades Edwards has moved back and forwards between Tonga’s royalist political establishment and its pro-democracy opposition, sliding in and out of parties and Cabinet posts. 
As Minister of Justice in the ‘90s, Edwards oversaw the jailing of several pro-democracy activists, including the distinguished journalist Kalafi Moala; a few years later, though, he was presenting himself as the voice of Tonga’s opposition, and winning a parliamentary byelection as a candidate for the People’s Democratic Party. Today Edwards sits once again in Cabinet, as part of an ultra-royalist and very unpopular government headed by Lord Tu'ivakano, a man elected by his fellow nobles rather than by voters on the general roll.
When I asked how Tongans could still take Edwards seriously, given his numerous vacillations, one of my interlocutors looked at me with the slightly sympathetic, slightly mocking expression Tongans reserve for palangi who ask silly questions, and said “You don’t understand who Edwards is. He is the Maui of his generation.”  

I found it hard to relate Clive Edwards, who hobbles about Nuku'alofa in expensive, extra- large suits, to that master mariner and fisher of islands Maui. My interlocutors explained, though, that Maui is a sort of archetype who returns in every generation of mortals, and pointed out that the legendary hero and Edwards share a penchant for trickery.  
After talking with some of my Tongan colleagues at the ‘Atenisi Institute, and eventually discovering the essays of Niel Gunson, the missionary-turned-scholar who insists that Tongans traditionally experienced time as a cyclical rather than a linear phenomenon, and made sense of personalities and events by interpreting them in terms of endlessly recurring archetypes, I began to understand what had seemed to me a very strange explanation for Clive Edwards’ career.
In the visionary paintings of Benjamin Work, who has just had a triumphant debut exhibition at Otara’s Fresh gallery, archetypal figures float or stride through a sort of timeless time. In a review of Benjamin’s show for the online art journal EyeContact, I’ve suggested that his paintings not only educate us about Tongan history but give us a different, profoundly non-linear way of viewing history in general. You can read my piece here

[Posted by Scott Hamilton] 


Blogger Richard said...

How old is Clive Edwards? There was a Clive Edwards in the scene in Auckland I'm sure, or I'm not sure. I thought at the time he was Samoan. It might be another as I suppose it is a common name. I thought he was a lawyer or something or associated with the Labour Party...

I might be confusing him with another as those times are now so long ago and my memory is probably deteriorating withe the rest of me....

8:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clive lived in Auckland in the seventies...he was a wheeler dealer for sure...

8:34 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I mean "on the scene in the late 60s / 70s" (not sure how long).

Good art by Benjamin Work and also Sio Siasau.

Achetypes. I'm reading a strange but interesting book about "Late modernist poetics" which talks of archetypes, Heidegger, and much else in regard to Pound, Olson, Prynne and Celan.

Also the idea or ideas of time and much else.

The cycle has at some point to break and there is a kind of "oscillation". By some means Prynne has his cake and eats it, rejecting the mystical and or the transcendent, but using ideas of Geist. But it is only one writer's take on Prynne etc but he also invokes Jung and some neo Nazi ideas - of the Volk and so on or the polis which was used by Olson who rejected Pound's confused politics but kept other good aspects...

Perhaps this "archetypical thinking" among some Tongans is what is referred to by the critic.
It is also in Greek society if not even the present day psyche somewhat.

In any case a less judgmental way of viewing people perhaps.

A way of "getting on" with each other?

8:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Tongan newspaper has been ordered to pay damages to the prime minister and six other cabinet ministers, following a successful defamation action.
The Kele'a newspaper published a letter to the editor in October 2012 that repeated claims made in Parliament against the ministers, accusing them of being above the law.
Observers say the case is part of an ongoing political duel.
Alex Perrottet reports:
Since Tonga's new parliament was elected in 2010, People's Representative 'Akilisi Pohiva has levelled accusations of corruption against government ministers. The veteran politician has had a long association with the Kele'a newspaper, which published a letter from Solomone Palu last October, echoing Mr Pohiva's claims. His long-time rival Clive Edwards, the minister of justice, says you can't make the claims without proof.
"CLIVE EDWARDS: It's one of the most ridiculous cases that have been raised and it's all political. How can you call somebody a thief, a criminal and not fit to be a minister or prime minister because he is a crook."
The editor, Mateni Tapueluelu, and his wife Laucala, who is the publisher, were each fined almost US$70,000 in damages and costs. Solomone Palu, who was ordered to pay more than US$34,000, was represented by Mr Pohiva. But the representative of the ministers was Clive Edwards himself, and New Zealand-based Tongan academic, Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, says that was a conflict of interest.
Dr MALAKAI KOLOAMATANGI: It is odd that the Minister for Justice is the lawyer in front of a local judge who is appointed by the ministry. That has to be cleared up.
Mr Edwards was also awarded costs for his time. But he says he sees no conflict of interest. Mateni Tapueluelu says the letter's content was already on the public record as it referred to accusations that were made in Parliament.

8:46 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Interesting comments. My Dad actually knew Edwards back in the '70s, when he was active in Auckland as a lawyer, representative of the Tongan community, keen rugby player, and - I think - local councillor.
My father would play against him occasionally, and recalls him denouncing the status quo in Tonga and vowing never to live again in the kingdom!

I don't think that viewing Edwards in terms of some sort of archetype necessarily means refraining from criticising him. What the archetype offers, I suppose, is a sort of frame within which his behaviour is perceived and explained.

8:52 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

I did find it bewildering, though, that Edwards had been able, so many times, to reinvent himself. Lose Miller-Helu was in the frame when Futa Helu walked out of the Friendly Islands Democratic Party and formed his short-lived People's Democratic Party, under whose banner Edwards won a parliamentary byelection. She says that Futa forgave Edwards for his behaviour in the '90s, when he was nicknamed 'the hangman' because of his role in imprisoning enemies of the monarchy, after Edwards offered an apology.

Perhaps it is just as well that Futa didn't live to see Edwards jump back into the royalist vaka, join Lord Tu'ivakano's government, and start a new campaign against Tonga's pro-democratic press!

8:57 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

There are people like that who seem to be legends in their own time! I would say he has a lot of energy and charisma.

Strange case going on if he is the Minister of Justice anon!

The archetypes interested me as it is that kind of thing I find hard to get my head around.

Interesting your father played rugby (or league?) with him. I cant recall him, just that he had a Lawyer's Office (I think in Ponsonby when it was 'working class').

Peters is one such another: he is chameleon for sure. I think these guys also like to think or imagine they are wiley like Napoleon or Te Kooti, his NZ equivalent. My friend worked with Peters in the 70s. He is named after Winston Churchill, and sometimes used to affect a kind of English upper class superiority.

I wont talk about the incident when the Mt. Wellington-Pakuranga bridge was being built by Italian engineers...nor will I mention Peters re that.

Peters also loves all that controversy and manouevering..

Edwards. Peters. We always get to personalities. The men we love to hate or be irritated by.

I cant quite see him as Maui either!

9:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus healed 7 lepers, science has eliminated leprosy in almost the entire world.

10:14 pm  

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