Keri Hulme on Language Conflicts

From a telephone interview with Keri Hulme conducted by Laurelyn Douglas '91.

LD: The article "Maori Spirituality as Pakeha Construct" made the comment that by including a glossary of Maori words that you, and other authors, had somehow sold out by not putting English and Maori on the same level, that one was dominantŠ

KH: I find that regrettable. I put it in because Maori and English, in fact and in New Zealand, are not on terms of equality. It was only two years ago that Maori became an official language of New Zealand. * I know very well from relations on my father's side of the family, wholly Pakeha, that they know almost no Maori whatsoever. I wanted my story understood by New Zealanders. I'm fascinated that some of the earlier books that I regard as my elders in the field of Maori writers, people like Patricia Grace and Witi Ihimaera, did include glossaries. People are stopping doing it now, which in one way is a sign of growth. But for a lot of peopleŠit's like when you use Maori in every day events. I was at a funeral on Monday, a funeral for a Pakeha West Coast writer, and because I feel more comfortable and more at ease, I introduced my comments -- my eulogy, if you like -- in Maori and finished it in Maori. And there were sort of covert mutterings as if people felt, I don't know, possibly they thought I was uttering some sort of magical formulae or something. They felt excluded and showed itŠ

LD: So they felt a reversal of an alienation that seems to have existed for over a hundred and fifty yearsŠ

KH: Yes. And it's possibly worthy to do it at everyday events but for somebody who aspires to be a bridge, or a bridge-builder, between two cultures -- and I'm part of both of them, but I've got relations who are only part of either -- the more I can communicate, the better. So, if I feel it necessary to include glossaries of Maori or indeed of Celtic terms -- there's still been quite a few of those turning up in Bait -- well, tough tit, people. That's the way it's going to be.

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Last Modified: 15 March, 2002