Monday, February 23, 2015

VIP er

One of the perks of being a participant in the Taipei International Book Exhibition was being given a VIP pass to all the public events.

As New Zealand was this year's Guest of Honour at the Book Exhibition, there were several special sessions in the GoH Pavilion that I wanted to see, one of which was "Colonisation and Culture" -- "How does colonisation affect culture and cultural expression?"

Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Whiti Hereaka and Liglave Awu spoke movingly about the effects of "New Zealand and Taiwan's colonial history on indigenous peoples, socially, economically, politically and artistically."

Liglave Awu said the term "The mountain girl" was used derogatorily;

  • "I was warned not to reveal my indigenous background [....]"
  •  "I was on bad terms with my mother because I thought it was her fault that I was discriminated against [....]"
  •  "I was reconciled when I had my own children [....]"
  •  "Ever since, I have been in search of my own identity."

Linda Tuhiwai Smith said, "A hundred and seventy-five years ago, our ancestors signed a treaty, written in Māori and English, witnessed by representatives of the British Crown...";

  • "The story of Māori colonisation has followed a pattern [...] in missionaries [etc...] who installed ideologies [...]"
  •  "Initially, Māori sought to engage, became literate and converted to Christianity [...]"
  • "Alienation of our land as well as efforts to stop us using our language [...] Colonisation works deeply on a colonised people [...]"
  • "In the nineteen fifties, an integration policy was adopted. It didn't work as it was seen by Māori as a continuation of assimilation policies."
  • "First priority: live. Second: find the energy to enable you to live."

The session was moderated by Darryl Sterk, whose name had come to my attention a few days earlier, when I was generously gifted a copy of The Man with the Compound Eyes, by Wu Ming-Yi, that Darryl translated.

The Man with the Compound Eyes is a novel that had me spellbound from the first page. The day before this session I had taken it to read on a walk that turned into a hike up a mountain: much in keeping with the story and its setting.

Me, holding The Man with the Compound Eyes, en route to the top of the mountain: photographed by a mysterious business man. But that's another story. 

I had a chat with Darryl at the end of the session and asked him to sign my copy.

Darryl Sterk generously signing my copy of The Man with the Compound Eyes.

Darryl made me feel very special when he asked me if I had something I'd written that I could sign for him. I gave him a copy of Cooked Up; Food Fiction from Around the World, an anthology containing my post-colonial story "Food Bank". I only wish I had offered my gift before I had asked for Darryl's autograph. I have a lot to learn. I came away feeling far richer than when I arrived, but I also came away feeling English.   

 Cooked Up contains stories by various renowned international writers and will be available to buy from April.

This was just one of many exchanges of words, culture and ideas I had in Taipei.


Donna Hosie said...

You so deserve all this success.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thank you, Donna xx

Lori said...

You seem to have had such a great time! It all sounds amazing!

Rachel Fenton said...

It gave me so much to think about, Lori - a huge learning curve - and yes, I had a great time and would love to go back and learn more, write more, make more art. xx