Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Flying-Foxes within a Sea of Islands

Albert Wendt and Epeli Hau’ofa both use their writing to express the effect of colonization and the balance of cultures. Wendt’s writing stresses the importance of the history on ‘the way of life that is tatauing’ (400) and Hau’ofa’s main focus is to discuss the relationship and interaction between multiple communities. Both authors make a point about the connection of tradition and culture. Wendt and Hau’ofa each discuss the journey of identity, and give examples to aid as an individual travels through their voyage of self discovery.

In Wendt’s, “The Cross of Soot”, he describes a story of a young boy (Wendt at a younger age) who transitions into a young man after receiving a tatau. Receiving a tatau acts as a transformation between stages of life. Not only does the tattoo act as a bridge within personal development, but helps connect the person to their past by providing the individual with a new future and identity. As Wendt states: “Being a humble Samoan, I apologize humbly for not having a tatau. Why don’t I have one? I am a coward, physically!”(410). Wendt demonstrates his new identity after receiving an incomplete tatau he now receives the identity as a ‘coward’, however he is ultimately changed after the experience. The tatau helped transform Wendt from an innocent boy to a man able to be mature enough to recognize the importance of the unfinished tatau. The beauty of a tatau lies within the person (with the tatau and viewer) providing a form of art, preserving history in the present and aiding in a person’s idea of self.

Hau’ofa also discusses the idea of bridging history but balancing traditions with the present. Hau’ofa states “their world was anything but tiny” (31). He stresses the effect of perspective as well as values on self image, and connects these concepts to the opinions from others. Hau’ofa’s writing focuses in on identity of the individual among/within cultures, while stressing the importance of this relationship during the exploration of self-discovery. He stresses the relationships within this ‘sea’ and the major outcome during the stages of life, demonstrating the power of relationships on one’s identity.

The main concept found within Hau’ofa’s writing is that of Wendt’s writing in a large scale. Wendt’s magnifies the art of tatau as a connective medium within/among a culture, while Hau’ofa uses the sea as a bond (on a level of wider range). Each demonstrates the importance of the connection between tradition and the balance of culture.

Wendt and Hau’ofa both use nature to help explain their main issues. Wendt uses the ideas of animals and landscapes in talking about the history of the tattoo while Hau’ofa’s writing is a long metaphor relating ‘islands’ to the ocean or sea. Their connections to nature help stress that the relationship between and within communities as a balancing act. The balance act is between upholding your own personal values and roles within your community and staying true to the traditions of your culture when submerged in a new society. These comparisons back to nature help increase the reader’s ability to connect to the writing (even if they cannot relate to tattoo or being submerged into a new culture).

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