THE BOY AND THE TANIWHA
This book tells a story of the relationship of a young Maori boy with his grandmother and of his search for a Taniwha. The tale is set in a time prior to the coming of Europeans to New Zealand and refers to several customs, beliefs and myths of the ancient Maoris.
The story is informative, amusing and well written and the copious illustrations in colour are fresh, gay and, with considerable originality, most skilfully drawn. The illustrator, although he has based his drawings on Maori artistic concepts and forms has, nonetheless, succeeded in imparting a most pleasing liveliness to his work. The print is large and clear.
A minor criticism: it is unfortunate that the brief instructions on the manner in which Maori names and words should be properly pronounced are printed on the dust cover to the book and not in the book itself.
The book is very good value for its price, and it is suitable for reading in primary schools, as well as in the home, by children aged between six and eleven years.
KIRI, Music and a Maori Girl
The Kiri phenomenon. What is it about this young Maori girl which has so captured the public's imagination? It is a mere three years since she first came to general notice by scoring a second in the Mobil Song Quest of 1963 at Hamilton. Since then she has featured on six gramophone records, appeared in two local films and now rates a biography. To be sure she is young, talented and good looking but many other local song contest winners have been similarly endowed without making an appreciable public impact before leaving their own country for training abroad.
Part of Kiri's appeal of course is due to her Maori ancestry. She is unique as the first Maori female singer of serious music to stand at the threshold of fame and fortune overseas. (Am I perhaps being uncharitable to add that leaping on Kiri's bandwagon also gives some of the leaders in our artistic community the opportunity to salve their consciences by paying a sort of lip service to the sadly underrated Maori contribution to music and arts in New Zealand?)
Another factor in Kiri's success is shrewd promotion. In this respect, A. H. & A. W. Reed have been co-pilots of, rather than passengers on, Kiri's bandwagon. Although never overstepping the bounds of good taste and a legitimate regard for Kiri's own interest, they have assiduously fostered and catered for public enthusiasm for Kiri te Kanawa with the periodic issue of records of her singing. Now they have commissioned and published this book.
If some will say that a biography at this stage of Kiri's young career is pushing things just a little too far then her publishers could undoubtedly retort that they are only giving the public what it wants—which is undoubtedly true. Furthermore, in fairness to author and publisher, the book is not claimed to be a biography (although many will regard it as such). It is obviously intended rather as a study—as the success story of a young singer in the initial stage of her career. For this reason the book for the most part concentrates on events rather than character study. This results in rather a one-sided view of Kiri. Inferentially she emerges from the book as a paragon of all the virtues. We are not shown her losing her temper or disobeying Mum or falling prey to any of those little human frailties which beset lesser mortals. There is no attempt to analyse the secret of her success or of the influence which her biracialism makes to her musical development or personal temperament.
The book begins mawkishly. Chapter one is irrelevant and contrived and the second chapter will lead the reader to fear that this is to be a blow-by-blow description of our heroine's life story. In fact the reader's reaction to this chapter (which deals with Kiri's early childhood) is probably best summed up by the final
sentence on page 14—‘Talk about sickly smiles.’ Fortunately author Norman Harris gets into his stride in subsequent chapters which deal with the highlights of Kiri's career interlaced with a wealth of anecdote.
Norman Harris met Kiri in London and wrote the book there in close collaboration with her. Harris is best known for his sports writing including Silver Fern at Tokyo and the autobiographical Champion of Nothing in which he describes his own attempts to become a champion athlete. In fact this is his first non-sporting book.
Whilst it may seem that a sports writer is ill-equipped to write of the trials and triumphs of a budding singer, Harris in fact brings a rare perception to his task. Having experienced at first hand the self-discipline and the constant striving towards a goal which is necessary for athletic success, he is able to write with insight on the similar development of one seeking artistic success. He skilfully depicts the tension and anxiety which lead up to the all-too-brief moments of climax and success and leads the reader into a feeling of emotional involvement in the hopes and aspirations of Kiri Te Kanawa as she climbs the first steps towards her goal of becoming a professional singer.
For 29s 6d the reader gets a mere fifty-nine pages of text. However the book is filled out to a respectable size with a further sixty-four pages of photographs which paradoxically begin with Kiri in Trafalgar Square in March 1966 and finish eighty illustrations later with her first stage appearance as a seven year old tap dancer. Apart from a little clumsy retouching in illustrations 33 and 35 (third finger left hand!) the photographs are excellent. They illustrate the tremendous mobility of her face and expression. In hardly any one photograph does she look exactly the same as in any other. (Compare for example illustrations 24, 52, 58, 60, 70, 71, 74–I swear they must be seven different people, yet of course they are not.)
I really feel for this beautiful girl from whom so much is expected. Perhaps it would be a kindness now to take the fierce glare of the spotlight off her for just a little while whilst she struggles to gain perfection in her craft. Within such a short time she has attained the recognition and acclaim for which many artists struggle a lifetime. We must not allow the rest of her career to become anticlimatic through heaping too much on her too early.
MAORI & PAKEHA
This study of mixed marriages in New Zealand is an interesting work of some considerable value, but it is nevertheless, to some degree, of limited scope.
The author examines and discusses various marriages where one spouse is a Maori, or predominantly Maori, and the other spouse is European, or predominantly European. The author cites some representative cases and then goes on to deal with types of mixed marriages and the characteristics of the spouses; the meeting, courting and engagement of the parties and, thereafter, the relationships between the husband and wife, with their kindred and friends, and within the community, and finally, the position of the children of such marriages.
The author's observations refer, however, only to persons living in Auckland—as he
RECENT OXFORD BOOKS
Narrative of a Residence in New Zealand and Journal of a Residence in Tristan da Cunha.
Augustus Earle was the first artist who spent some time in New Zealand painting the New Zealand scene. He lived for nine months in the Bay of Islands in 1827–8. The Narrative of his experiences is one of the best descriptions of this country in the years before colonization. The present edition, the only complete version since the book first appeared in 1832. contains the fullest account of Earle's life yet published and an introduction based on missionary records and other manuscript sources. The book is fully illustrated with monochrome and colour prints of Earle's paintings, many here reproduced for the first time.
New Zealand Letters of Thomas Arnold The Younger.
Thomas Arnold, brother of Mathew and son of Dr Arnold of Rugby, came to New Zealand in 1847 and spent two years mainly in Wellington and Nelson. His restless life was touched by most of the great causes—religious, political and social—of his own time. His letters to his family and friends in England give a fascinating glimpse of early colonial New Zealand and of the liberal ideas which were common to many of the first generation of New Zealanders.
(For the University of Auckland) 78s 0d
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freely admits—and, therefore, his conclusions may not be valid with regard to persons living in other centres of population in New Zealand. But, since Maoris are migrating in increasing considerable numbers from rural areas to the cities and, in particular, to the City of Auckland, the author's observations in this book will be of increasing worth.
There is nothing very startling in the author's main conclusions, namely that intelligent, responsible and hardworking people of any race tend to marry similar people of their own or any other race and, contrarywise and quite apart from any matter of race, people who are dull, irresponsible and feckless tend to wed persons of like characteristics—i.e. persons of high economic or social status usually marry persons of that status and persons of low economic or social status incline to marry persons in that category.
The distinction made by the author between ‘fully mixed’ marriages and ‘racially mixed’ marriages is of great importance, and that distinction must be clearly understood before the book, as a whole, can be properly appreciated.
The chief interest in this work lies, not so much in its analysis of the relationship, one to another, of the spouses to a racially mixed marriage, but in the effect of such a marriage upon the relatives, children, friends and acquaintances of the respective spouses.
Mr Harré is an anthropologist, but this book is not over encumbered with the terms of art of his profession. It is, in the main, easy to read. It should be read by anyone who is, in the slightest degree, interested in Maori-European relationships. More and more people in New Zealand are going to find themselves in situations arising, directly or indirectly, out of the marriage of some relation or friend with a person of a different race, and this work provides a good insight into the natures of such situations.
New Year Honour
Dr H. N. Paewai of Kaikohe received the O.B.E. in the New Year Honours list. He has worked hard for the Maori people, encouraging them to help themselves by such means as the Budget Counselling Scheme, which he began in Kaikohe in 1960.