Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cape Egmont

Events personal as ever impinge upon the political. I had intended to write about Buchanan’s The Parihaka Album yesterday but Friday’s storm intervened. The aftermath of the storm continued into yesterday. The tree that toppled over north next door was a rather rare Chilean native, not as I thought a species of ribbonwood.

And the oak bough from the west neighbour’s tree was only part of the damage. The whole top of the tree has been shattered. A tree surgeon will be required to remove some of the dangling branches. The neighbour kindly put his power saw to use and removed the bough and debris. We were lucky. Even the daphne bush survived the brush with the large branch.

To return to Parihaka. I have been to Cape Egmont lighthouse. Impressive! A solitary white unmanned beacon above a surging sea. That day I brought with me my ignorance.

I will let Buchanan’s words tell her story.
‘Maritime New Zealand had put a sign. It said in part ‘This light shone for the first time in August 1881. …:" ‘

‘The sign made me angry. … I couldn’t dispute the facts presented on the sign, the longitude and latitude, the heights and weights, the seconds and the dates; but even so, what the sign said was not really true. The lies of the sign, if I can put it that way, is in what it doesn’t say, in the facts it leaves out.’

‘This light just didn’t happen to shine for the first time in August 1881. There is absolutely no coincidence in the date of this illumination. … [It was part] of the military campaign on Parihaka only seven kilometres up the road from the cape. Soldiers erected this lighthouse, soldiers guarded it once it began to shine. They built the road I had driven on, and they installed the telegraph lines that allowed the men leading the campaign on Parihaka to communicate their thoughts, wishes and fantasies to politicians in Wellington. The road, the telegraph and the lighthouse – speed, safety, secrecy, enlightenment – all these things the soliders installed, forcibly, in this formerly independent Maori place. …’

[The lighthouse] ‘is a relic of war. Why doesn’t the sign say so?’

Several years after my visit to the lighthouse I stayed on the Parihaka marae – a moving experience. I did not make the connection. History surrounds us as we oblivious go on our merry way.

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