Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Reverse Adaption

Very similar to Wendt's Black Rainbow, Epeli Hau'ofa displays in Tales of the Tikongs several characters adapting to a culture by changing their clothing, speech patterns, and life style. However, Wendt usually showed this occurrence in an outsider trying to fit in, like Foster dressing like an "otherworlder" and disregarding his Tangata Moni past. This showed the governments ability to persuade its citizens that they knew what was best so the population would melt together and stay in order. Hau'ofa presented this "fitting in" adaption in the reverse: an indigenous person molding to the persona of one of foreigners attempting to colonize the country. 
The most blatant occurrence of the reverse adaption is the chapter titled "The Second Coming" starring the neurotic character Sailosi Atiu. He completely takes on the persona of an Englishmen he has worked with during his stints at various Tiko government agencies. He was so immersed in taking on Mr. Hobsworth-Smith's "style of work, dress, speech, and deportment that his friends took to addressing him by the Englishmen's name" (49). The Imperial Governor often mistook him for a "cultured English gentlemen" which allowed Sailosi to gain favor in status at the government offices. As soon as he was awarded the post of Director of the Bureau, he went immediately back to his former dress and speech of the native Tikongs. So basically, he used the demeanor of the Englishmen to gain job security to be able to control his offices.
Hau'ofa's use of this changeling character showed the effects of colonization and also the hypocrisy that occurs in the indigenous people. Sailosi imitated, down to the British swear words, Mr. Hobsworth-Smith and gained great positions in his own government to the point where he could make enormous change, especially in personnel. He wanted natives to work the offices so as to not share too much of the Tikong culture with outsiders but ended up alienating all of the natives when they displayed customs that were very British. These were values that he probably instilled in them himself and when they only follow example, they're punished for it. Sailosi ended up loving the foreigners sent by aid programs because they were being paid so much that they didn't want to rock the boat at all and just did what they were told. 
The great twist at the end of this story was that Mr Hobsworth-Smith, from whom Sailosi took the Director job after Hobsworth-Smith had a break down, came back in full on Tikong attire, right down to the knee-length socks. This was so distressful to Sailosi that he ends up having a melt-down and Hobsworth-Smith takes over the post yet again to run things "as he sees fit" (56). Sailosi's hypocrisy didn't pay off in the end and actually took his beloved position away from him and giving it back to the colonizer.
A sad and less obvious lesson learned in this is that the indigenous can't outsmart the foreigner at his own game.

No comments: