Brownie Puriri's World Tour
Mr N. P. K. (‘Brownie’) Puriri, the Assistant Controller of Maori Welfare in the Maori Affairs Department and editor of the Maori text in Te Ao Hou, has just come back from a world tour which included visits to Fiji, Hawaii, U.S.A., Canada, London, Hong Kong and Australia.
He was one of ten New Zealand delegates invited by Prince Phillip to attend his second Commonwealth Study Conference held in Canada this May. After the Conference he went on to Europe, and then flew across Asia to Hong Kong.
Brownie went first to Fiji, where he was a guest of the Fiji Credit Union. He was very impressed with the way in which Credit Unions helped their members to have money and at the same time to improve their living standards.
‘Life is hard in Fiji’, he said, ‘but they are making the most of every opportunity.’
Fijian gatherings are just like Maori huis, their language is like Maori, and Fijian hospitality is as warm as Maori hospitality.
‘When I visit Fijian villages they all said, rather jokingly, that Fijians and Maoris are the one people—that Maoris must have left Fiji because of the heat. They appreciated my version of this, that Fijians had to be dropped off there during the migrations because they got too sea-sick, and couldn't make it as far as New Zealand.’
Similar to Maoris
Again at Hawaii, Brownie was struck by the close similarities between the two peoples.
‘They would tell me, “You are Hawaiian”, and I would say, “No, you are Maori”.’
He stayed with Hawaiian families, and found that their problems are much the same as Maori problems. But while Maoris have retained so much of their traditions, Hawaiians feel that they have lost most of their customs, their communal way of life and their language. ‘They don't know who they are, and they are very conscious of this loss.’ However, he believes that they have retained more than they themselves realise. Their language has gone, but a new language has developed — Hawaiian Pidgin, which is a blend of Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, English and Filipino, and is fascinating to listen to. And Hawaiians certainly haven't lost their hospitality, nor their aroha.
He visited a great many people and places in Hawaii, including the Mormon College and the Maori students there.
In the United States Brownie was most impressed by the hugeness of Washington and New York. While he was in New York he spoke in the famous Voice of America radio programme, talking about New Zealand and the Maori people in an interview that was later broadcast throughout America and South-East Asia.
Our photograph shows Brownie in the Voice of America programme. We would really have liked to show a photograph of him wearing the enormous ten-gallon hat that he bought in the States and was wearing when he got off the plane on his return. Unfortunately, though, this hat has travelled up to somewhere in North Auckland.
The Commonwealth Conference in Canada, which studied the human consequences of industrial development, occupied 25 days and during this time the 300 delegates, who came from 34 countries, travelled right across this huge country. Brownie found the Conference very stimulating indeed, and is writing an article on it for our next issue.
When he reached London he wrote back to say that he had always thought that Maoris lived only in New Zealand, but now he had discovered some English Maoris.
London's Cockneys have the same warmth and same attitudes to life as Maoris. He felt very much at home in England, and found people were very
Brownie Puriri's World Tour,
friendly—‘In fact I felt more at home in English hotels than in some of these pubs I've been to in New Zealand.’
After this there was a long flight right across Europe and the Middle East to Hong Kong. He flew all the way, and enjoyed flying very much, but found that ‘physically I landed at a place, but biologically it took a while for me to catch up with myself, if you see what I mean.’ This is hardly surprising seeing that his whole trip was crammed into only two short months.
Hong Kong is a wonderful place, he says, though ‘many readers will know the Maori saying that a bird needs feathers to fly with, and unfortunately this bird had started to moult by this time.’
At all the places which he visited, Brownie met and talked to the people concerned with social services, with race relations and with industry; his welfare work in New Zealand naturally gave him an especial interest in these things. In Hong Kong he was impressed with the work which the Government and the churches are doing under difficult circumstances. The people are very cheerful, and honest too (‘they are good business people, that's different’). There is little juvenile delinquency, even very humble homes are kept clean, and people are happy. They accept help if they must, but are a proud people and don't go looking for hand-outs.
A Chinese family will give up its modest accommodation to sleep on the pavement in order to save the money to enable one—just one—of the family to learn to read and write.
He spent a day in Australia and was very fortunate in meeting some relatives there, Huia Rika and the Tipene family (Mrs Tipene is a sister of Mr Hone Heke Rankin of Kaikohe).
And what were his main impressions, we asked Brownie, after visiting all these places and all these people?
He feels that people throughout the world have much the same problems; that the world is much smaller than it used to be; that we as Maoris don't realise the opportunities that exist at our own front door. He found that Maori qualities are shared by many other peoples as well; that Maori warmth, spontaneity and communal values are very possibly more typical of the human race than are the Pakeha versions of these things. He thinks we are all too complacent, too smug in this country and he talks wistfully about the civilized drinking overseas, especially in England.
Maoris have been most fortunate, he feels, in retaining their own identity, and this has been partly due to enlightened Government action.
There are two other things he is emphatic about. Though he is so much a Maori, Brownie Puriri went overseas as a New Zealander firstly, as a Maori secondly. And he is more than ever sure now that this is the best country in the world.