Kia maumahara ngaa tangata - on the abolition of time
Hana Pera Aoake
Kia maumahara ngaa tangata
on the abolition of time
For maaori the karanga is sacred. Karanga represents the first words spoken between manuhiri and tangata whenua during a formal powhiri on the marae. The karanga, issued only by women, is the first expression of welcome. It provides the connective tissue or safe passage between the physical space that exists between the two groups. It allows manuhiri to feel at ease. The karanga is not just the call of one person to another, it is the calling of all tuupuna, living and dead, as well as the entire mana of the marae.
The kai karanga—woman who calls the manuhiri—carries a heavy burden of responsibility. Just as our tuupuna both live within and are embodied by the wharenui. The karanga provides the medium by which the living and the dead of the manuhiri may cross the physical space to unite with the living and dead of the tangata whenua. It is a spiritual call, answered always by a kai whakautu—a woman who returns the karanga on behalf of the manuhiri. The karanga is a call which invites manuhiri to whakaeke mai bringing with you also and through you, your ancestors. This is both the manuhiri’s memories of those who were past and their physical material bodies which have passed ki tua o te arai.
A karanga represents the destabilisation of western constructs of time. Ancestors long passed flow in and out of our bodies providing a material way in which we can map ourselves as being many, of being made of many and of those bodies flowing through the whenua to hongi with each other, resisting binaries. Our bodies are conduits between these notions of time. Past, Present, Future. The call of the powhiri is like the arrival of waka (canoe).
Kaatahi anoo ka tuukari te maara a te Noinoi.
When my grandmother passed away I began sewing again and was hand stitching abstract swirls and lines that I thought of as strands of whakapapa existing in and through the water in our bodies and the water that connects us and frames the histories of migration across Te Moana nui a Kiwa. I started to sew the distinctive shape of the Tainui taonga, Uenuku. I knew nothing about Uenuku existing until very recently, but have drawn its distinctive shape all my life. Uenuku is a 267cm wooden carved taonga of the Tainui people. Uenuku was one of the traditional gods of the Maaori people, who manifests as a rainbow. It is said that the spirit of Uenuku came to Aotearoa on the Tainui waka. Once we landed in Aotearoa we began a carving in which the spirit of Uenuku resided. Uenuku has four spikes on his head, with three gaps, representing the seven colours of the rainbow. Made of Totara, it has been dated between 1200-1500 AD. It is unlike almost all Maaori carvings, in that it looks more Tahitian than Maaori. Uenuku was lost during the battle of Hingakaakaa between Ngaati Toa and Waikato tribes around 1780. It was rediscovered in swampland, well preserved, near Lake Ngaaroto in 1906.
I saw Uenuku for the first time this week at Te Awamutu Museum in the Waikato. I felt his mana and it almost overpowered me. I began to feel light headed and physically ill, as well as crying. I couldn’t explain my reaction to being in a room with Uenuku.
Maaori poet Trixie Te Arama Menzies wrote of her encounter with Uneuku in her poem Unenuku,
“Uniquely formed, inscrutable response —
Rejecting questions that enquire too close.
But to all those protected by the power
Such secret knowledge may we feast on there
That we too may float free and walk the air.”
How did I know about Uenuku subconsciously? I have a Tainui wairua. A knowing, knowledge or guidance that can never be taught. It is the fact that all of our bodies contain traces of collective memory that were deposited into our bones. The body is an archive, not an archive in the sense of the need to dissect worlds into categories into an imperial archive, which is supposedly neutral and guarded by ‘experts’, nor is it studies of distinct events whose very delineation reiterates the imperial divisions of ‘history.’ You could argue that it's impossible for the body to be seen as an archive, it simply isn’t suitable, it's too slippery, for there are so many complications or contradictions that exist within us, but the practices of being and knowing are mutually complicated. The vitality of the body insists on entanglement with the outside world—it complicates the binary demarcations of ‘inside’ and ‘outside.’ The archive is seen as a guardian of the past.
But how did these categories like ‘past’ or ‘present’ or ‘future’ come to define our relation to objects that are held in archives? How does the vitality of our bodies, which exists across these ideas of time contradict this? While working at the Alexander Turnbull library in 2016 I was collecting documents for a client when I realised I was holding letters between The Crown, Ngaa Puhi rangatira and my tuupuna, Tuukaaroto Matutaera Pootatau Te Wherowhero Taawhiao. I imagined his hands holding it and imagine the stress, worry and compromises he made in order to try and exercise mana motuhake. Holding these pieces of paper did not feel like holding a relic of the ‘past’, but rather felt as though my tuupuna were there holding me to account and questioning why they had been relegated to the past, rather than being able to exist interconnected to everything that has ever had a mauri. I felt sick with a sense of responsibility to not think of these papers as the ‘past’, but rather as existing right there, now and containing an autonomy. Without our complicity in acknowledging the existence of the past, the archive could no longer produce “the past”. 
I often think about the word ‘ruin’. Once I was walking through Marvila in Lisbon, which is an area decimated by the ongoing effects of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. It is also a space in which many people have built self-organised communities out of the destruction of large parts of the suburb in the way of progress. But I don’t see this community as being in ‘ruin’, they have textures that signify the richness of their histories. These half-demolished buildings are covered in tiny microbes, plants and other living entities. This isn’t a ruin, it’s a home.
Tuungia te ururua kia tapu whakaritorito te tupu o te harakeke.
Time has become a series of categories organised primarily around work. This coincided with the Cartesian mind/body split in western philosophy, the beginnings of intensive imperial brutality or ‘expansion’, and the destruction of the Commons in Europe. But what if we rejected or rather abolished time as we know it? If time is a construct and our bodies are not aligned in a linear, logical way, then surely we can work towards a shared world that isn’t contingent on ‘deadlines’, or the Gregorian calendar named after a long dead Pope from the other side of the world. What if while still acknowledging and mourning what has been lost, we pivot back to an ontology that is interconnected with the world? For example by following Hine-te-iwaiwa and the maramataka cycle. This is also to acknowledge that we can never really go back to a pre-colonial Aotearoa, but instead we might reorientate our ability to share the world together in a way that interconnects everyone to everything.
1 Trixie Te Arama Menzies, Uenuku. Waiata Koa Collective: Wellington, New Zealand, 2012, 2
2 Julietta Singh, No Archive will restore you. 3ecologies Books: London, 2018, 29
3 Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Potential History Unlearning Imperialism. Verso: London, UK, 2019, 338
4 Julietta Singh, No Archive will restore you, 31
5 Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Potential History Unlearning Imperialism, 79.
6 Ibid, 79
PAST PRESENT FUTURE: After Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Audre Lorde.
Two AI’s discuss their subjectivities in exalted jargon, while floating in the middle of the great ocean. AI #1 (KAREN) is a thin 40 inch screen with cords that look like tentacles plugged into the coral beneath them. AI #1 (KAREN) is unable to move from the centre of the ocean and looks a lot like Deborah Harry in Videodrome . AI #2 (BRUCE) looks like Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man, but obviously has no gender. AI #2 (BRUCE) sits on a giant waka, they are slowly rusting away and their programme is locked, so they are only able to repeat the same thing over and over.