Patricia Grace’s Potiki explores the intimate connection between the Maori people and the land which gives life to their community. Several elements emerge from the Maoris’ relationship with the sacred land: spirituality, the well-spring of life from death, the power of stories, and the strength and source of identity. There are many beautiful themes within this text which seem to speak to something within our souls and provide the foundations of one’s homeland.
We are offered numerous views of the Maori homeland through the individual stories of Grace’s characters. We learn that the stories and the land are intertwined and could not exist without each other. While past homelands texts have included this connection between home, location and people, Potiki places more emphasis and more sanctity on the physical land. To lose their land would mean extinction and thus eradication of Maori culture, spirituality and ideals. The Maoris’ interaction with “Dollarman” elicits a theme that spans from the Industrial Revolution to present day. Fortunately, the Maori people understand what so many fail to see—that money does not bring true happiness. Despite the Maori's material poverty, they are full in spirit and hope. In Chandra’s Love and Longing in Bombay, the technological portions of the stories seemed like a distraction for the characters and an inconsequential gloss over the deeper meanings to be found. In denying the development of their land and modernization, the Maori have chosen what I consider the more courageous path—the return to working with the organic source of all life. The Maori people live these deeper meanings every day. Within the context of the pressures and fears of soon-to-be college graduates, I found this theme quite inspiring when it comes to having the courage to find and follow one’s path and to understand the source of one’s identity.They distribute power, cherish the unique story of each society member and are willing to fight for their identity. Expressing a feeling of content that draws a suppressed longing in readers, Roimata claims “Our chosen hardship was something that was good and uplifting to all of us….We were whole and life was good” (Grace, 105). This notion is wrapped within the makeup of one’s homeland.
This week during Business Ethics our class examined the writings of German philosopher Max Scheler. In his work Christian Love and the Twentieth Century, Scheler discusses mans’ “estate,” claiming that there is an inherent longing for man to be part of a community, to be surrounded by his family, to develop a craft and to grow with the spirit of the estate which is founded on the love of creation and its quality, not profits (Scheler, 400). The Maori of Potiki live this same ideology coupled with the spirituality of culture and the reverence of tradition and story. As I connect these texts, I begin to understand the integral role these themes play in the development of one’s homeland.
Not only does “Dollarman” represent the false happiness of modernization and money, he symbolizes the refusal to understand another’s homeland. This is seen when Toko looks into the eyes of the “Dollarman” and responds, “I saw what he saw. What he saw was brokenness, a broken race. He saw in my Granny, my Mary and me a whole people, decrepit, deranged, deformed” (Grace, 102). It is a version of this perspective that led to the destruction of Ibo culture in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Many are not willing to see what it is that makes another’s homeland unique and truly home. One thing I have learned from Homelands is the importance of totally removing yourself from your own homeland and placing yourself in someone else’s. Something as near and dear to us as home can only be understood when all beliefs, relationships and geographies are considered and embraced.