"It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching."
Portia, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene II.

Friday, July 10, 2015

NZATE Day 3: Karlo Mila - Sailing in a new direction to enlarge our worlds

Day 3 for me was all about the final keynote from Karlo Mila. I have to confess I had (a) never read Karlo's poetry and in fact (b) never even heard of her before. Having heard her speak this morning I now have a burning desire to rectify 'a'.
You can see a short bio here on the conference keynotes page. http://www.capitalletters2015.com/key-notes.html

Karlo talked about how young people of Pasifika heritage who are born in Aotearoa can grow up disconnected from their multiple cultures, feeling like they don't fit in anywhere. "Trying to fit into someone else's story sucks," she tells us. "Yes, you have Cinderella, but as a half-caste heavy girl from Palmerston North, you know you aren't even invited to the ball."

Another example is wanting to paint "NOT" at the end of Colin McCahon's "I AM" (Gate III).  This one hits me quite hard as I used to spend hours as an undergrad at Vic staring at that painting. It hung in what was in those times known as the 'Lecture Block' and I saw the verse, "Teach me to order my days rightly, that I may enter the gates of wisdom," as a kind of personal reproach over my lack of adherence to my study timetable or my last minute knocking-up of whatever essay was due. Although I was not a Christian at the time ("I AM" now), I was fascinated by that work. It was the first piece of Colin McCahon's I had ever seen, as a dewey-eyed 17 year old first year, and it had impact. But now I can see that maybe it had such impact on me only because it was part of my story: as a pakeha New Zealander the Judeo-Christian, Western cultural capital was in my kete even if I hadn't claimed it yet and was only beginning to understand that I owned it. "I WAS."

But, Karlo tells us, having more than one set of cultural resources to navigate by can be a huge asset if young people can be connected to their 'poly-cultural capital'. Reflecting on this, I imagine our rangatahi having Gate III, Shakespeare, Chaucer and Beowulf in their kete alongside Mana Maori, Mana Pasifika, Mana Moana. What could they not achieve, what new directions could they not take us in to enlarge our worlds?

Malo, Karlo - he mihi nui ki a koe.


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