Man of the Mist
This biography of Elsdon Best, written by his grand-nephew Elsdon Craig, shows him to have been a highly individualistic man who found bureaucracy irksome. He was a serious and conscientious student, and a sympathetic man when dealing with Maoris and their different outlook on life. He was also a humble man, despite the fact that—as evidenced by the statements of so many other ‘greats’ of Maori studies—he was the acknowledged expert of his time. There is little doubt that Te Peehi, as he was known to many of his Maori friends, was one of the greatest compilers and scholars of Maori history, culture and tradition that New Zealand has ever produced. His desire to preserve for future generations the indigenous culture to which they would be heir caused him to be one of the most prolific writers on Maori topics, as well as one of the most expert.
I found the book readable and enjoyable. It gives a most interesting account of an action-packed life, and has passages in it which are most moving, especially the account of Best's farewell to the people of Ruatahuna and Maungapohatu. Best's obvious affection for Tuhoe in general, and Paitini and his wife Makurata in particular, is well described.
When we consider that prior to the publication of much of his material Best suffered many setbacks, both bureaucratic and private, we must consider ourselves extremely fortunate that his manuscripts ever saw the light of day. It seems strange that such a great expert should have struggled so long for recognition. Eventually he received it—but only in his very last years.
My dislike for hybrid sentences was intensified by parts of this book which seem to have been straight quotations:
‘Though by no means a Tamariki (child) in years …’ (p. 196)
‘In these matters you are the kaumatua (elder) and I the tamariki (child) …’ (p. 204).
There are several such examples. The habit of translating Maori names is even more irritating. Tamakaimoana, a Tuhoe informant, is referred to constantly as ‘Sons of the sea food.’ Some of the Maori quotations are rather badly translated, but this does not appear to have been the fault of the author, since the relevant extracts appear within quotation marks.
These are personal dislikes, which in no way detract from a very well written, interesting and enjoyable book. It is a fitting tribute to a learned man. Since Elsdon Best considered himself to be of Tuhoe, the following whaka-tauki seems apposite:
‘He kotahi na Tuhoe, e kata te po.’
Almost all of the articles in this enterprising publication are by students at Wellington Teachers' College. They cover a wide field, most but not all of them being concerned with education. Well informed, thoughtful and above all constructive, the book deserves to be widely read.
An excellent article on the ‘Place of the Maori Language’ presents a strong case for the teaching of Maori in our schools, and points out that teachers would in fact be available for this:
‘If it were not for those Auckland high schools where Mr Waititi has been working and for the Maori church schools, there would be only three of our state high schools in which Maori is taught. Yet the majority of our Maori children are educated in these state schools. Each year there are more than 20 graduates from Auckland University qualified in Maori. Where do they go? There hasn't been a job for a teacher of Maori in the gazette for months!’
The Currie Report: A Critique
Association for the Study of Childhood, 10s 6d
This small book contains commentaries by a number of writers on aspects of the 1962 Report of the Commission on Education. Among them are two long and perceptive articles by James E. Ritchie and E. G. Schwimmer on the education of Maori children, which will be of interest to all who are concerned with this. Dr Ritchie ends his
article by saying, ‘Somehow, we must sensitize the teacher, particularly the young teacher, to feel the multitude of personal difficulties, aspirations, and challenges the Maori meets in moving to the city, and to be refreshed by them, because all Maoris are not delinquents or otherwise problem people. They are for the most part engaged in a quest for a valid identity, moving with a sense of progress and vitality, successful, in a drama that the rest of New Zealand scarcely appreciates.’
New Zealand Through Young Eyes
A well chosen collection of writing by New Zealand teenagers. Lively, thoughtful and candid it is highly readable. The book is sponsored by the Auckland Junior Council, which hopes to make it an annual publication.
For Sale: Complete set of ‘Te Ao Hou’, issue nos. 1–49, £7. 10. 0. Write to A.B. Box 352, Wanganui.