Thursday, January 29, 2015

Black Rainbow Presentation

Black Rainbow

By Albert Wendt

Novelist and Poet Albert Wendt
·      Author of five novels concerning Samoan culture
·      Pacific Rim and English literary scholar in New Zealand
·      His Master's thesis was about the Mau, Sāmoa's independence movement during the early 1900s colonialism[1]

Hone Papita Raukura "Ralph" Hotere
·      August 11, 1931 – February 24, 2013
·      New Zealand artist of Maori descent (Polynesian)   
·      Most Famous Works are “Black Paintings”- politically active art utilizing black on black materials: lead, charcoal, and sea wood

Discussion Questions
1.     In Chapter 1 “On Maungakiekie”, the interviewer tests the protagonist’s cultural history and understanding of the Ralph Hotere’s political lithograph “Black Rainbow”. Interviewer: “You play rugby? Where you’re from?” Narrator responds, “Used to. But our community banned it…Caused to too much violence among supporters” Interviewer: “Yeah? What kind of violence?” Narrator: “A few people were killed with stones and sticks?” [4] Considering Hotere’s “Black Rainbow” is about Samoans reacting to the controversial rugby tour of New Zealand by apartheid era South Africa in 1985 and it invokes historical awareness of French nuclear testing in the Pacific, how does the narrator’s cultural amnesia about his own country’s art play into the belief that historical knowledge shapes our identity? Does his lack of cultural context make him more vulnerable to the Tribunal, who has a monopoly on memory, or more secure?
2.     In Chapter 2 “Cocaine”, the narrator recognizes his absolute power over the lives of other’ non-Chosen people. “I was scared of the power the Tribunal had bestowed upon me […] I denied the power”. The hotel manger responses, “It’s the wish of our Illustrious President and our all-seeing Tribunal that our Free Citizens, who’ve earned the Freedom of our State, be treated well. And obeyed utterly”[5] What   does the definition of free and freedom mean in this context? Is the right to do whatever you please over others truly freedom outside this book’s context? 
3.     Throughout the text, Nurse Honey and Big Nurse extract truth from the protagonist. The housekeeper in the safe house tells him of her autobiographical truth. [6] In spite of the females using sex to obtain information, both seek truth. What do these women’s roles as truth seekers or truth givers mean in the context of story telling, literature, and actively pursuing truth? 
4.      In Commitment to Justice in Jesuit Higher Education, the role of Jesuit educators and students is defined. “Their mission tirelessly to seek the truth and to form each student into a whole person of solidarity who will take responsibility for the real world” (35-36). Similarly, Tribunal selects the protagonist for tirelessly seeking the truth. “TRIBUNAL IS YOUR FAMILY. YOUR SEARCH IS FOR THE TRUTH OF THE TRIBUNAL. THE TRUE CITIZEN NEVER GIVES UP”[7].  How does the Jesuit University’s mission to educate and seek truth differ from the Tribunal’s mission to form the protagonist into a person who takes responsibility of Tribunal’s real world?
5.     Does the travel format and quest of this postmodernist, post-colonial novel interwoven with literary and film references have more to do with de-colonization of English Literary Canon or more of a mocking of people’s general notions of a travel novel? Because generally history is considered truth not fiction, does the format question the credibility of history?
6.      Mau was official name associated with the movement for Samoan independence from colonial rule during the early 1900s. In Samoan, Mau means 'opinion,' 'unwavering,' 'to be decided,' or 'testimony' denoting 'firm strength'[8]. How is definition applied to the final chapter that tells the reader, “to improvise whatever other endings/ beginnings they prefer”[9] Is meaning of Mau make this book postmodernism or does it give the reader the agency to seek the truth by selecting which history to believe? Do modern historians, journalists, and educators do justice or disservice to their students by presenting what they believe is truth?   

[1] "Artist Ralph Hotere Has Died." New Zealand Herald. January 24, 2015. Web.
[4] Wendt, Albert. "On Maungakiekie." Black Rainbow, 15. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1992.
[5] Ibid 51
[6] Ibid 59; 113
[7] Ibid 36
[9] Ibid 267

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