The Death of Koro Paka: “Traditional" Māori Patriarchy
Deconstruction does not say there is no subject, there is no truth, there is no history. It simply questions the privileging of identity so that someone is believed to have the truth. It is not the exposure of error. It is constantly and persistently looking into how truths are produced. (Spivak 1988, 28) This paper starts from the simple question of what knowledge is produced about Māori men and why. In Nietzschean style, I am less concerned with the misrepresentation of truths than with how such truths have come to be privileged. I do not argue that the tropes such as the Māori sportsman, manual laborer, violent criminal, or especially the Māori patriarch, are “false,” for indeed there are many Māori men who embody these categorizations.To propose such tropes are false would suggest that other forms of Māori masculinity are “truer,” “more authentic” embodiments. Alternatively, I am stimulated to uncloak the processes that produce Māori masculine subjectivities. Specifically, this article deconstructs the invention, authentication, and re-authentication of “traditional” Māori patriarchy. Here, “invention” refers to the creation of a colonial hybrid. This is not to say, however, that colonization provided the environment for the genesis of Māori patriarchy, for it is probable that modes of Māori patriarchy existed prior to colonization (ie, patriarchy as constructed by Māori tribal epistemologies, focused on notions such as whakapapa [genealogy] and mana [power/prestige/respect]). In order for this colonial invention to crystallize, it first required a catalyst.In the case of Māori patriarchy, as I describe in this article, the catalyst derived from the relational conditions between Pākehā and Māori.But, as these contours shifted, discourses oscillated from denigrations of the “savage” Māori male to celebrations of his noble warrior status, the recognition of affinities with the British, and the assimilation of Māori men to imperial models. The hybridized colonial invention established its authenticity over other modes as “true” Māori masculinity. This invented truth was cemented by the construction of Māori culture as premodern and, thus, static. In contemporary times, the invention is re-authenticated through narratives that establish continuity between a generalized Māori culture and a particular concept of patriarchy, and notions of authenticity and tradition. I examine these processes, first, by looking at how Māori patriarchy was invented and authenticated through the hybridization of Māori and British masculine cultures. Here I look particularly at the early colonial education of a select few Māori boys through British public schooling. I then look at the contemporary re-authentication of Māori patriarchy through a deconstruction of the film The Whale Rider (Caro 2002). I argue that the film deploys a dangerous conflation of representation and reality, re-authenticating the invented tradition of Māori patriarchy.
ISSN: 1043-898X; 1527-9464
Keywords: Indigenous; Film; Whale Rider; Te Aute; Patriarchy; Hybridisation; Niki Caro; Witi Ihimaera; Brendan Hokowhitu; Te Tumu; Maori; University of Otago
Research Type: Journal Article
Permission kindly granted to reproduce this article from The Contemporary Pacific editorial board.