Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Parihaka Album

I never thought when I began reading Rachel Buchanan’s book ‘The Parihaka Album’ that I would learn a lot about the early history of Wellington city. I’ve lived here since 1979.

I knew that in early Pakeha settlement a sizeable earthquake had raised the Basin Reserve. I often walked to town through the Bolton Rd cemetery and across the Denis McGrath footbridge. I’d read about the outcry over the building of the motor-way through the cemetery. .

But I had no knowledge about the Maori association with the Botanic Gardens and cemetery. I did not bother to make any connection between the name ‘Taranaki Street’ and the province. From Buchanan I now know about the Te Aro pa in what is now the Courtney Place area. It was a pa with close ties to the Taranaki area.

But more than that – what started off as an academic thesis about Pakeha-Maori mythmaking became a family history as she explored her own whanau and the links between the Te Aro pa and Parihaka. It’s been a fascinating read.

And the thesis still stands. I’ll let Buchanan’s words explain it. ‘The absence of any reference to New Zealand’s first wars at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, or at the National War Memorial that looms up behind it, suggests that these wars are moving even further from the centre of national collective memory. The wars of foundation are certainly not forgotten; but they remain peripheral, problematic and contested, unable, somehow, to be integrated into popular, bicultural rituals of commemoration.’

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