Monday, March 9, 2015

Literature and Tatau

After reading all three texts, I couldn’t help but wonder what my worldview is. Hau’ofa suggested that we tend to put people and countries into boxes, making them not only physically small, but also limited in their ability. Being a part of the United States, it becomes difficult to think I’ve never had a hand in this conception. America tends to feel so vast that every other place must be entirely too small. We can never fathom size in any tangible way, especially in terms of mileage, however we are doing a huge disservice to natives by viewing their countries in this way. By thinking all countries are so small and in need of aid, we limit the potential of that place and it’s inhabitants.
Hau’ofa also discusses the fact that these beliefs are untrue. People living in the Pacific, for instance, do not think of themselves as too small, it is only when they are constantly belittled does this happen. He writes, “keeping the ordinary folk in the dark and calling them ignorant made it easier to control and subordinate them” (Hau’ofa 28). This reminds me of our education system. In teaching, it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid putting students down in order to move forward. For instance, teachers generally set up a dynamic where students must remain subordinate, however this relationship creates a belief that students have nothing to offer teachers. This is analogous to the idea that far off smaller countries have nothing to offer America in terms of culture. Failing to recognize benefits in these exotic places results in a failure to see beyond the surface level.
All three texts highlight the importance of tradition and culture to land and inhabitants. For Wendt, tatau is essential in order to translate culture and heritage from one person to another. The act of tatauing becomes necessary in order to move culture from one generation to another. In America, I’m not sure we have any tradition that relates closely to tatau, but I think our focus on literature is one way to relate. For instance, literature not only allows readers to be transported to another place, it also serves as an account of history that can be translated to new generations. Through literature, those who have a different culture can experience a new one and those who share the same culture can find out more. The fact that tatau involves the act of the written word scribed onto skin shows how similar it is to literature. The process of writing is just as important as the final product, in a similar way, the process of tatauing is even more spiritual than the tatau itself sometimes. Translating tradition involves both the author and listener, just like the tatau requires artist and receiver. The parallels between literature and tatau reveal the strong cultural need to pass down tradition and tell one’s story. Both Wendt and Hau’ofa illustrate the reliability between all humans, while detailing their own cultural beliefs and practices, they show how similar all humans are, regardless of location in the world.

Literature has the power to show us similarities and remind us that we are all human; something traveling also has the power to do. Through my own experiences with travel and literature, I’ve learned that despite cultural differences, we are all basic humans. These texts serve to remind us that instead of focusing on a country as a whole and what differences are present we should focus on the ordinary, common people because typically we have similar human needs.

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