Post-colonial tensions in a cross-cultural milieu : a comparative study of the writings of Witi Ihimaera and Chinua Achebe
Ojinmah, Umelo Reubens
In many former British colonies independence from colonial rule has produced a myriad of post-colonial tensions. Increasingly, writers from the indigenous race in these former colonies have felt moved to respond to these tensions in their imaginative fiction. This study has undertaken a comparative cross-cultural analysis of the works of two writers from such societies whose indigenous cultures share common assumptions, to explore the underlying impetus of these tensions, and the writers' proposals for resolving them. Chapter One assesses Witi Ihimaera as a writer, and explores his concept of biculturalism, with particular emphasis on the distinctly Maori point of view which informs his analysis of contemporary social problems. Chapter Two assays Ihimaera's pastoral writings, Pounamu Pounamu, Tangi, and Whanau, tracing in them the development of his concept of biculturalism, and also the changes in Ihimaera's writing that culminated in The new Net Goes Fishing, with the hardening of attitude that it expresses. Chapter Three looks at the revisionism of Ihimaera's view of New Zealand history from a Maori viewpoint. It uses Ihimaera's The Matriarch not only as a means of exploring this revisionist Maori perspective, but also as evidence of the radicalisation of Ihimaera's views, and the broadening of the concept of biculturalism to embrace not only cultural, but social and political matters. Chapter Four considers Ihimaera's The Whale Rider as a feminist restatement of earlier views and highlights the growing dilemma he faces concerning the concept of biculturalism. Chapter Five focuses on Achebe, the writer, and his view of the role of the African writer in contemporary society. It argues that Achebe views himself as a seer, a visionary writer who has the answer that could regenerate his society. Chapter Six analyses Achebe's Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God, and argues that contrary to accepted views of Okonkwo, this character is not actually representative of his society but a deviant. It further argues that the post-colonial African societies' afflictions with irresponsible leaders were already manifest in the colonial period, through characters such as Okonkwo and Ezeulu, whom Achebe sees as guilty of gross abuses of power and privilege. Chapter Seven looks at both No Longer at Ease and A Man of the People, and argues that the failure of the first indigenous administrative class stems both from their having an incomplete apprehension of all the aspects of their heritage and the responsibility which power imposes on those who exercise it, and also from lack of restraint in wielding of power. It further argues that the unbridled scramble for materialism has resulted in the destruction of democratic principles. Chapter Eight analyses Achebe's post Nigerian Civil-War writings, arguing that these works depict both civilian and military politicians as having similar attitudes to power - they wield it as if it were personal. The chapter also establishes Achebe's proposed solution to the perennial post-colonial malaise of abuse of power as being a thorough re-formation of the inherited cultural values around society's traditional world-views. In the context of contemporary New Zealand society, Ihimaera sees the solution for Maori post-colonial tensions as bicultural integration, but he is having problems with the concept in the face of increasing radical activism from Maoris who see it as little better than assimilation. Achebe, however, has opted for re-formism, having discarded traditionalism because it is inadequate for people in the modern world.
Advisor: Jones, Lawrence; Fox, Alistair
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: English
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis