In the belly of the canoe with Ihimaera, Hulme and Gorod. The waka as a locus of hybridity
Abstract:The canoe has become a material metaphor for the intrepid skill and ancient knowledge of ancestral indigenous migrations and connections and a popular culture symbol of identity in Oceania. I examine the central role played by the great canoes of the ancestors in Pacific literature, especially as the canoe is identified with the mauri or spirit of the land in two well-known novels, The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera and The Bone People by Keri Hulme. The representations of incest, violence against very young women and sexual possession linked to the site of a canoe stone in the first Kanak novel, L'Epave, however, open up a troubling and critical space within such apparently idealizing images. Dw Gorod's text makes explicit the extent to which the locations of the (wrecked) forms of the canoe are shifting at once ancestral, imposed by colonialism and commodified by a global capitalist society. The canoe itself is a hybrid. Hybridity in Gorod's texts derives not only from a century and a half of co-existence with a socio-politically dominant white New Caledonian society but also from a sense of wreckage present behind the surfaces of custom in whose survival and renewal the writer is nonetheless deeply emotionally and politically invested. Through the metonymy of the canoe rock as wreck I argue, Gorod's work connects with other Pacific writing exploring violence and more generally, hybridity. Paradoxically, there is transnationality concealed within the very insularity and cultural-centredness of this single published Kanak novelist. Unspoken questions of the pleasure of the feminine body, its power, and, more particularly, the modes of its exploitation, create connections and migrations across indigenous Pacific communities and between literary texts. In all of these texts, the fluidity and mediation of the sea-voyaging canoe remains a contradictory but not mutually exclusive avatar of the stone, buried deeply in the earth. The voyage into the belly of the canoe is emblematic of the search for both roots and routes, a locus of hybridity seeking to create new third spaces where women have a different place.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: University of Auckland.
Publication date: 2008-12-01
More about this publication?
- The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
- Editorial Board
- Information for Authors
- Subscribe to this Title
- Ingenta Connect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites