“Heta tangin…saw saw a lang
Sawta tangin…hei hi a lang”
– Early Zo poem
Translated, “From here…that can be seen. From there…this can be seen”.
Story of my life.
Some of my earliest memories of Shillong involve wanting to come to New Zealand. I do not know why, as this was in the days before we had a TV, and definitely much much before we had the Internet. I knew little of Maori, and even less about the stunning landscape. One association I made with New Zealand was the tins that Apu had, that used to hold milk powder, but now held sugar, bought monthly in 5 kg bags from the Army rations stores. Turned out that these were from Australia. Over the years, bits and pieces I heard about this land fascinated me, from the news piece about bungy jumping, or watching the Maori haka, even finding out that Sir Ed Hillary was from here. In the years I lived with Apu, he spoke once or twice about wanting to go to New Zealand. Then there was the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland, and the subsequent banning of all nuclear armed/powered vessels from New Zealand waters.
Interestingly enough, it was that last one that brought us here. When talk of studying/seeing the world came up, I had suggested Aotearoa New Zealand, but Dee thought it too far from home and family. One day though she saw a documentary on the banning of nuclear armed/powered vessels, and came home and told me we would be moving to Aotearoa New Zealand after all.
And what an adventure of the mind this has been. Scraping a little under the surface of Maori art, I’ve got more insight into my own tribal culture(s) than I’d have thought possible. I’ve been introduced to the whole world of Visual Culture, and think I may have finally found something that can keep me interested long enough to be able to get a degree in it. I’m dreaming of a chance to study the Visual Cultures of North East India in detail, particularly the Zo puan.
The fantastic libraries and the work with the RDA and a Special School have thrown up questions of access I had never thought of before. While I may not be able to contribute brilliantly to the world, surely I can help by helping provide access for people who might? I think back of the chap from Bihar who built a pirate radio station. He was obviously much smarter than the bureaucrats who shut him down. What could better access do to those of us impaired by a disabling society? I dream now of starting, not so much a library, but something that does what a library does- provide access.
The Lord of the Rings connections here are leading me down the trails of Myth and the creation of myths. First there was Tolkien and his Middle-Earth, created on the basis of Old English and Norse myths. Then were the movies based on the Lord of the Rings that have become as famous as the books, if not more. And now is another extension of that mythology being created- movie set tourism. Tourists are not visiting Matamata, they are visiting Hobitton. Not the Rangitata valley (Maori), or even Mount Sunday (European), but Edoras. And I cannot help but wonder: What myths have we lost? What myths are we creating?
And so it is, this far from home, that is what I see clearer. Just as this is what I saw when I was there.
Heta tangin…saw saw a lang
Sawta tanging…hei hi a lang