New Pacific Island history is revealing and rewarding
Tangata o le Moana: New Zealand and the People of the Pacific
Edited by Sean Mallon, Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai and Damon Salesa
Te Papa Press RRP NZ$79.99
For most people the history of the Pacific and the various Pacific Islands is rather confused and unclear. Some of the island groups have had greater connections with New Zealand than others, some have been in this country longer and made an impact socially artistically and politically However the distinctions between the various island groups and their histories is hazy
Over the last fifty years Pacific culture has, in many areas of New Zealand become part of the New Zealand culture landscape but how that has happened is generally not understood.
That there were only 4000 Pacific Islanders in New Zealand in the 1950’s and there are now in the hundreds of thousands is an indication of the changes that have occurred.
However with the publication of the Te Papa Press book “Tangata o le Moana: New Zealand and the People of the Pacific” the stories and the history of the Pacific and the way in which the various groups have interacted with each other and New Zealand is outlined in am accessible and informative way.
Edited by Sean Mallon, Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai and Damon Salesa, “Tangata o le Moana” draws on 50 years of individual and institutional-based research by leading New Zealand scholars. Most importantly, the book is told from uniquely Pacific perspectives - taking the viewpoints of Pacific peoples who have made New Zealand their home.
Sean Mallon, one of the book’s editors and Senior Curator Pacific Cultures at Te Papa, notes that despite Pacific peoples’ long association with New Zealand, their stories are almost non-existent in general historical publications.
‘Tangata o le Moana: New Zealand and the People of the Pacific brings together the social, cultural and economic contributions of the Pacific peoples to New Zealand in one publication for the first time,’ Mallon says.
‘The essays, in some instances, literally draw on a lifetime of research by individual contributors, some of whom were active participants in the events they write about. They present a truly Pacific side to the history of New Zealand.’
From the earliest encounters to the little-known lives of Pacific people in 19th century New Zealand, New Zealand’s colonial aspirations to the lost stories of Pacific people’s contribution to New Zealand’s war effort, this book reveals a surprising, and sometimes fraught, history of Pacific relations.
The lavishly illustrated book features fifteen essays on the history of Pacific people’s interactions with New Zealand and the impact New Zealand has had on its Pacific neighbours.
With hundreds of historical and contemporary photos and archival records and drawing on rich oral histories, the book also explores the emergence of Pacific community organisations, the politically explosive era of the Dawn Raids, the effect of New Zealand’s contemporary foreign policy on the Pacific, and the rise of individuals in New Zealand politics, sports, and arts.
There are the politicians; Taito Phillip Field, Winnie Laban and Mark Gosche, the sportspeople; Tana Umaga, Bernice Mene and Valerie Adams, the writers; Albert Wendt, Alistair Campbell and Courtney Meredith, the artists; Fatu Feu’u, Andy Leleisi’uao and John Pule and creative drivers such as Lemi Ponifasio, Neil Ieremia and Jim Vivieaere.
The book was conceived by Mallon and Māhina-Tuai during a four-year research programme for the Tangata o le Moana exhibition which opened at Te Papa in 2007. Acknowledging the many excellent individual historical publications, both realised that there was no one book that brought all the threads of Pacific story in New Zealand together.