Manawa Toa, page 1
Cathie Dunsford is director of Dunsford Publishing Consultants which has brought 120 new authors into print in the Pacific. She has taught writing, literature and publishing at Auckland University since 1975 in the English Department and through Continuing Education, and was Fulbright Post-Doctoral Scholar at the University of California Berkeley 1983–6. She has co-directed three national writers’ conferences, and her work has been published in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and in translation in Germany. Her writing has achieved wide acclaim and she is recipient of the Scholarship in Letters and the Established Writers Grant from CNZ Arts Council. She recently completed a book tour of Germany. Cath Dunsford believes readers are vital to the life of an author and welcomes your feedback:
Other books by Cathie Dunsford
The Journey Home: Te Haerenga Kainga
Kia Kaha Cowrie (Rogner & Bernhard, Germany)
New Women’s Fiction
The Exploding Frangipani (with Susan Hawthorne)
Me and Marilyn Monroe
Car Maintenance, Explosives and Love
(with Susan Hawthorne and Susan Sayer)
Spinifex Press Pty Ltd
504 Queensberry Street
North Melbourne, Vic. 3051
First published by Spinifex Press, 2000
Copyright © Text: Cathie Dunsford, 2000
Copyright © Typesetting and layout: Spinifex Press Pty Ltd, 2000
Copyright © Woodcut designs: Cathie Dunsford,
Starfish Enterprise Art, New Zealand 2000
Many of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are claimed as trademarks. Where those designations appear in this book, and Spinifex Press was aware of a trademark claim, the designations have been printed in initial caps.
Copying for educational purposes
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All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of the book.
Edited by Janet Mackenzie
Typeset in Sabon by Palmer Higgs Pty Ltd
Cover design by Deb Snibson, based on woodcut design
by Cathie Dunsford
Made and printed in Australia by Australian Print Group
National Library of Australia
Manawa Toa/Heart Warrior
ISBN 978-1-74219-131-7 Master e-book ISBN
ISBN 978-1-74219-440-0 (ePub Format)
ISBN 1 875559 69 8.
Manawa Toa: Heart Warrior is dedicated to all Maohi and Pacific Islanders.
Manawa Toa is a taonga or gift for all those struggling for a better world.
Let us have a nuclear free Pacific, a nuclear free world.
Creative New Zealand for providing an established writer’s arts council grant enabling the time to work on this novel. Rosemary Wildblood for her support for Aotearoan writers.
Susan, Renate, Nikki and all at Spinifex Press for their acknowledgement of the importance of Pacific talkstory in all its forms and their ongoing commitment to publishing Pacific authors globally, and Susan Hawthorne for astute editorial advice.
Beryl Fletcher, Susan Sayer and Karin Meissenburg for comments at draft stages.
Zohl de Ishtar for her honouring of Pacific talkstory on colonial and anti-nuclear themes in Daughters of the Pacific (Spinifex Press).
Dr Timoti Karetu for providing sources for checking origins of Maori proverbs and for his support for te reo Maori in Aotearoa.
Witi Ihimaera for his continuing support for my writing and aroha. Kia ora, Witi—yes, “the kaupapa sees us through”.
Keri Hulme for always being there and providing support in the tough writing times.
To all my whanau, kia ora, mahalo, thanks for your support.
Rogner and Bernhard, Hamburg, for buying Cowrie series rights from Spinifex at the Frankfurt Bookfair, thereby bringing South Pacific talkstory into the northern hemisphere in translation, and for their excellent editorial advice; Dr Karin Meissenburg for her sensitive translation of Kia Kaha Cowrie and her support.
Dr Terry Carlbom, PEN International Secretary, for his enthusiastic support for Cowrie at a crucial stage of the writing. Tena koe, Terry.
Sara Fuller, Ginette Pernet, Carolyn Gammon, and other overseas readers and reviewers for their abilities to stretch beyond European boundaries to enjoy Pacific talkstory.
Maohi and Maori tangata whenua who contributed stories and tales of the effects of nuclear testing in the Pacific. Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari te toa takatini.
Excerpts from Manawa Toa, Heart Warrior have been published in: Hecate, Bamboo Ridge, Hawai’i Writer’s Review, Calyx, Car Maintenance, Explosives and Love and the Australian Women’s Book Review. Thanks to all editors for their support of my work.
Tama tu, tama ora, tama moe, tama mate.
The person who stands, lives; the person who sleeps, dies.
The moon guides a canoe over silent black water, then disappears. Frogmen in an inflatable boat zoom towards figures waiting on the sand. As they reach the shore, the moon slides from its eclipse to the sound of helicopter blades and gunshots. They dive for cover, some into the water, some to the bottom of the craft. She watches from the beach. A bullet tears past her leg. She plunges into the ocean, her fins stretching to power her toward the craft. Waves lash her face. Her shell protects her back from bullets shooting through the water. She draws in a huge breath and dives as deep as she can. Beneath the surface, it is black. Seaweed tangles in her fins. She struggles to fight free.
Cowrie wakes. The moon edges her way over the dunes and shines through the trunks of her nikau palm hut. She cannot get back to sleep. She wraps her lavalava around her large, strong body and walks across the dunes to the ocean. Stalks of marram grass lit by moonlight remind her of Peta’s sweetgrass. As she reaches the last dune, the wild West Coast wind lashes at her face, fills her lungs. She draws in a deep breath, remembers the nightmare. He titi rere ao, ka kitea; he titi rere po, e kore e kitea.*
* * *
*Welcome visitors arrive by day; night visitors are enemies who come in the dark. (Literally: A muttonbird which flies by day is seen; the bird which flies by night is unseen.)
* * *
A lone torea plunges its beak into the sand to dredge up a tuatua which spits in the bird’s face as it is raised from its sleepy depths. The torea flies away, leaving the tuatua to burrow its way back to freedom. Moonlight catches the white water as waves break far out at sea. Brilliant stars sparkle over the Pacific shores. She imagines navigating her way through these breakers in the dark. Ancestral waka came from all over the Pacific guided only by stars. There were no stars in her dream, just a blanket of blackness covering them until the whirring and gunshots, then a glaring light. She recalls Keo telling her Mika’s story about finding the
Cowrie shivers, the night wind tugging her lavalava. She walks up the beach to the driftwood log in the shape of a stranded whale, the place that marks her rescue of little Maata from drowning. It’s good to be back in Aotearoa, where threats are from the wildness of nature and the pull of waves rather than gunshots piercing the darkness.
Ko Uenuku tawhana i te rangi.
Uenuku, the God of Rainbows, like a bow in the sky.
“Oho, Cowrie! Wake up!” Mere’s voice cuts into her sleep. Drowsily, she opens her eyes. “It’s after ten. You’re s’posed to be at kohanga reo. Shift your lazy bum and get up there!” Her mother throws her lavalava over to the mattress and exits the opening of the nikau hut.
Still dazed by her sleepless night, Cowrie wraps the purple and yellow hibiscus cloth around her body and ambles to the kohanga. The children laugh at her tousled hair and know she has just risen. They tease her relentlessly. To divert their attention, she tempts them with a story if they gather round her feet. Kids in all shapes and sizes fall about her like waves swirling around seaweed in the ocean.
Once they are all settled and she’s wiped a few snotty noses, she asks them who’s ever seen a dolphin? Of course, most of them have and all of them know the famous story of Opo, the gay dolphin who haunted the shores of nearby Opononi, on the inner Hokianga harbour, in the fifties. Their parents have told them tales of the magic fish that graced their beaches for years until one day it was lured away by a fisherman and found stranded in a rock pool, unable to escape.
“Now I’ll tell you a different dolphin tale. This one is a Chumash story.”
“What’s Shoe-mush, Cowrie?”
“Chumash is the name of a Native American tribe— an iwi like Nga Puhi, who lived on the west coast of the Pacific Ocean, on the shell of Great Turtle Island.”
“What’s Great Turtle Island?” pipes up a Yugoslav kid, descended from the early gumdiggers in the area.
“That’s America, silly,” asserts Maata, proud of her knowledge.
“Shoosh,” say the others, keen to hear the rest of the story.
Cowrie lowers her voice to keep their attention. “The Chumash people thrived so well they could no longer live on the island of Santa Cruz, so Hutash dreamed into life a rainbow bridge to carry them across to Carpinteria on the mainland.”
“Is mainland the back of the turtle?” asks Matiu.
“Course it is,” chips in Maata.
“Shoosh” comes the chorus, allowing Cowrie to continue.
Like all storytellers, she elaborates on the story each time she tells it. She gets the kids to identify the colours of the rainbow and they listen carefully as she explains how the rainbow bridge is created and then how, when people fell off it during the crossing, they were turned into dolphins and set free into the wide ocean. How dolphins came to be sacred to the tribe because they knew that some of these creatures were their aunties and uncles and cousins and sisters.
“How did the aunties get inside? Did the dolphins eat them?”
“No. They became dolphins when they entered the water. So they could be free.” Cowrie thinks of the transformation of Peta, her return to Kahnawake, to Nanduye, her need to reconnect with her people through their work together.
“So, was Opo one of our ancestors?” asks Hone.
“May well have been,” replies Cowrie. She’s never thought of this before. Strange how kids so often get right to the core of the truth. It’s as if they have some knowledge buried deep in them.
“Did Opo come back to tell us something?” asks Maata.
Cowrie has to think a moment. “Perhaps so, Maata. When Opo first came, everyone was touched by her dolphin spirit, her friendliness with people. She’d swim close to the shore, even touching people with her fins. But later, when greedy men tried to cash in on the act, the dolphin was harassed by people throwing their kids on her back, by crowds of tourists entering the water and trying to touch her. Instead of appreciating her, they wanted to possess her, own her, have a piece of her.”
“Is that why she disappeared?”
“It’s said she followed a fisherman up the harbour and her sonar was disturbed by blasting in the water, but she could also have been exhausted from the attention and people not leaving her alone.”
“So we killed her then,” asserts Marama.
“One way or the other, yes,” Cowrie replies.
“Did she come to warn us about greed?”
“I think so. She came for many reasons. Maybe she was once one of us. But she serves as a lesson that we still need to learn.”
“I’d like to be turned into a dolphin. I could swim anywhere I wanted and if too many people hassled me, I’d just swim back out to the open sea,” asserts Piripi.
“Right on, Piripi. Now, I want you all to draw the story of Hutash and the rainbow bridge or Opo or anything we’ve talked about this morning.”
The children gather their crayons and lay large sheets of newsprint from the Hokianga Herald on the floor. Tongues out, green, blue, orange, yellow crayons grasped as if they are a lifeline to the spirit. Cowrie can’t resist a smile as she sees uncles, aunties and brothers being turned into strange dolphin-like creatures and coloured arcs bursting from islands into the skies and falling gently on the land beyond. One picture depicts a rainbow stretching from the shores of Opononi over to the dunes and a dolphin splashing out of the water, stars bursting around its body.
“Why the stars, Hone?”
“They’re tear drops. They dazzle in the water then turn into tiny dolphins. They live in the wreck of the Rainbow Warrior. I know ’cos my dad took me out there last summer and dived down into the sunken boat. He said there were fish living all over it.”
Cowrie is close to tears herself. “Ae, Hone. Out of death, new life.”
“But the French still shouldn’t have sunk her with that bomb, eh Cowrie?”
“No, Maata. No they shouldn’t.”
“I’m gonna walk the rainbow bridge and fall into the water and turn into a dolphin so I can protect all the protest ships at sea so we can stay a clean, green land,” states Maata. The kids get excited and all agree it’d be a good life underwater. Bright colours erupt from their canvases, fill the room with hope, shimmering out the windows like a rainbow arc emerging from the misty water when the sun shines through.
He korero taua ki Wharaurangi, he korero ta matau ki Otuawhaki.
The talk is of war at Wharaurangi, but at Otuawhaki, they speak of making fishhooks.
Kuini pokes her head through the entrance to Cowrie’s hut. “Kia ora, sis. You still hard at it? Time for a break, I reckon.”
“You can talk! I’ve seen your candlelight flickering in Tainui past midnight for the last three weeks! I nearly came in one night when I had a bad nightmare and couldn’t get back to sleep. But just as I approached, you must’ve blown the candle out so I strolled to the beach.”
“I guess we’ve both been hard at it. But I’ve finished the draft proposals for establishing Te Aroha abuse prevention scheme nationally and I’m ready for some relaxation.Wanna go fishin’?”
“Aw, dunno, Kuini. Still got heaps of work to do.”
“I thought you’d given up that bloody thesis stuff.”
“Have. But writing for a feminist press is as hard, only I don’t have to fight the academy to be heard now. The same amount of research has to be done.”
“Virtual reality hits the Hokianga! If Dale Spender is right, you’ll be forgetting about the printed page anyhow. Books’ll cost too much, deplete the rainforest, but electronic media will be an ei
“Yeah, and useful for political action. Koana has been emailing progress on land disputes on the Big Island.”
“So you’ll be ready for some kai moana then, eh?”
Cowrie sighs, knowing she’s had the best out of the day and her mind is too tired to be of much value in the remaining hours. “You’re on. You get the paddles and kayaks ready and I’ll bring the fishing gear.”
Kuini needs no encouraging. She’s off to the beach in a flash to unhitch the kayaks from the pohutukawa trees and pull up the paddles from under the ferns. In the shed behind Mere’s cottage, Cowrie unfurls the lines from the last expedition, pissed off that someone has used them without cutting the bait from the hooks. It stinks. The marae cats could’ve had a nasty experience. As she saunters over the dunes, she feels the sun on her face and a weight lift from her shoulders.
The wahine pull the spray skirts for the kayaks tight around their bodies so that they can get through the huge breakers without swamping their craft. This also allows them to spin into an eskimo roll and do a 360-degree turn to paddling position if they are swamped by a wave. Water swirls around their legs as they prepare the kayaks for take-off. It’s crucial to time the waves perfectly or you can get dunked before you’ve got up a decent paddling speed. Kuini yells “E oma!” and they use their paddles to shove off from the beach, stroking for their lives to make it through the breakers.
As the first wave towers over them and crashes down onto the canoes, Cowrie lets out a shout of joy, emerging from the water cascading over her as her waka springs back to the surface. Kuini begins a mad haka, yelling at the waves in time with the beat of her paddle, and each races to be first to get beyond the breakers. At each cry of “te waka” they hit a wave and skim neatly through its curled cave. Ten minutes and several eskimo rolls later, they are both beyond the breaking surf, triumphant. No matter how often they do this, it always captures the excitement of the first time. West Coast breakers are renowned for their power and many trawlers and old sailing ships from England never made it past the Hokianga sand bar, their wrecks emerging from the surf at low tide as testament to their ghostly journeys.