Once Were Pacific: Māori Connections to Oceania, by Alice Te Punga Sommerville, (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 288 pp., $61.99.
Sommerville herself admits to finding a scarcity of literary evidence in this litero-anthropological critique of some literature, particularly with regard to ‘disconnections’ between Māori and Pacific. Thus some analysis is rather sparse on the ground – and some – such as, for example, her introduction of Evelyn Patuawa-Nathan’s Opening Doors as a Māori writing about Pacific is stretching things a bit too thinly. (Although Sommerville eventually admits: ‘Indeed, very little of the book explicitly engages Pacific connections at all.’) I don’t see enough of her avowed desire to discern ‘Māori articulations of connections with the Pacific’ here, probably because there haven’t been many! A bit more meat on the bones would have been tastier eh. That said, Once Were Pacific will, I hope, persuade more such articulation.
Nēi ra, kei te pai tēnei pukapuka, This book is fine, that’s for sure. Engari kāore he taunakitanga nui kei konei hoki. But there’s also not enough evidence here. Ko nui ngā patai o nuinga mo tēnei pukapuka tonu. There are still many question-marks overall about this book. Heoti, he rangi ta matawhāiti, he rangi ta matawhānui. However, a person with a narrow vision sees a narrow horizon, while a person with a wide vision sees a wide horizon. Ko Alice Te Punga Sommerville tēnei tangata tuarua. Alice Te Punga Sommerville is this second person. She has grasped perspicaciously the ‘complicated dynamic of connection and derision that shapes the relationships between Māori and Pasifika communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.’ Ko te marangai rangimārie kei mua te āwhā tēnei pukapuka. This book is the quiet rain before the storm.
VAUGHAN RAPATAHANA: Ko Te Atiawa te iwi, ko Ngati Te Whiti te hapu. Ko toru nga wahi o te kainga inaianei. He has a PhD in Existentialism from the University of Auckland and currently lives in Hong Kong.