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.”​[1]
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.[2]​ 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.’​[3]​ 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.’[​4]​ 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”. [6]
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.

AI #1 (Karen): Australian accent. (Origin 2017)
AI #2 (Bruce) : US accent. (Origin 1997)
A.I #1 (Karen): Past, Present, Future. How do we generate constructive, intercultural, intergenerational discussion around revolution and well-being in radical times?
AI #2 (Bruce): The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change [7]
#1: When the sky is no more than remembered light. Zip zip zip through time. The smog settled in the clouds and we put on our masks. We purify the air using purifiers we pay 50 bucks a week for.
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: Here lies my intellectual flabbiness. It’s really positivism’s irresponsibly sloppy language, which fancies that it documents responsibility in its object, yet on reflection I can’t help but feel like intellectual matters become the privilege of the mindless. [8]
#2 The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: What if we abolished time? We can rethink our roles as being “post” colonial and instead posit them as needing to be anti-colonial. What is a position of being anti something was instead a site of positivism in this instance, in that it cracked open the possibility of undoing categorisations like Past, Present, Future.
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: Time often feels like constant and endless repetition. Filling up time by staying within the confines of categories, binaries.
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: An anti-colonial stance requires a material commitment to the political realities of representation.“Anti-colonialism requires a rupture and a positive awareness of the way colonial representation has shaped and misshaped, reality for colonisers and colonised alike”. [9]
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: Changes with the passage of time happen only at the level of individual existence. In comparison to a vast universe, on the other hand, nothing changes because “nothing ever happens”.
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: It’s not that I’m afraid of true solitude, the deepest solitude, the kind you experience among a group of boisterous people; on the contrary, that kind of unconditional solitude is exactly what enables me to stay here without any regrets. [10]
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: What if we thought outside of the categories, but I guess the consumption and production of a culture is already fractured in the sense that it is a collective psychological process that can simultaneously reconstitute an effective ‘strategy of containment’ even as it may articulate a ‘utopian impulse’. [11]
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: Political decision has been replaced by technolinguistic automatisms embedded in the interconnected global machine.
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: Europe in decline. The financial collapse. Plague. Fires. Tsunamis. Volcanic Eruptions. Scarcity. Precarity. The ebbs and flows of social solidarity, Care. Love. The debt will never be paid. The embedding of abstract connections in the relation between all living and nonliving organisms. [12]
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: Society and capitalism is not natural. The social totality in our lives is dynamic, man-made, in development and structured via the myth of ‘endless growth’. All human relations are infused by the idea of being worth something, but all our social relations are tied to the ability to work. [13] For instance during the English invasion of Ireland, bodies were counted as land, as it was assumed that those bodies would be the free labour that would work those lands which are now ‘private property’.
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: In what sense is the question of private property a question of abstraction? ‘Private property’ can be understood as a double movement of abstraction, one which is conditioned by historical processes of separation by which in its real subsumption of social life continues to serve as a potent agent of dissolution. [14] This social process of separation, of extraction of say resources, reiterates the relation of labour to capital, in that it presupposed a process of history which dissolves the various forms in which the worker is a proprietor, or in which the proprietor works. [15]
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: “ Against the plague, which is a mixture, discipline brings into play its power…” [16]
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
#1: Time has become a habit—“a great deadener”—with the tramps, as it is circular and repetitive. Time has become irrelevant while trapped inside our rooms. Heavy breaths through my polyester mask. Maybe time was always nonlinear.
#2: The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change
7 Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light and Other Essays. IXIA Press: United States, 2017, 45
8 Theodor W. Adorno, “The Essay as Form”, Notes to Literature Volume I Rolf Teidemann (ed.,), Columbia University: New York, 1991, 5
9 Annette Hamilton, “Foreword” in Marcia Langton’s ‘Well, I heard it on the radio and I saw it on the television…’ Australian Film Commission: North Sydney, Australia, 1993, 5
10 Hu Fang, Dear Navigator. E-Flux, Journal #48, 2013,
https://www.e-flux.com/journal/48/60035/dear-navigator-part-i/
11 Marcia Langton quoting Michelle Wallace in Langton’s ‘Well, I heard it on the radio and I saw it on thetelevision…’ Australian Film Commission: North Sydney, Australia, 1993, 5
12 Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance. Semiotext(e):South Pasadena, CA, 2012, 28
13 Brenna Bhandar and Alberto Toscano, “Race, real estate and real abstraction”, Radical Philosophy 194, November/December, 2015, https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/article/race-real-estate-and-real-abstraction
14 Ibid
15 Ibid
16 Michel Foucault, “Discipline and Punish. The Birth of the Prison”, A. Sheridan., (trans). Vintage Books: London, 1995, 198
 
 
Hana Pera Aoake (Ngaati Hinerangi, Ngaati Mahuta, Tainui/Waikato) is an artist and writer living in Waikouaiti. Hana likes reading, sewing and uku.
©Lieu Journal 2020