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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa

Publishing in the 20th century

Publishing in the 20th century

There could be interesting histories of Māori publishing in the 20th century which address matters such as the range and style of publications, the individuals and tribes who produced them, the intended and actual readership, the extent of Māori literacy, what education initiatives—the Kōhanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa Māori and tribal universities—have brought to print, what publication tells of the future of the language. This research would inform current thinking about language survival and identify future publications.

There are a number of ways in which a Māori literature with its own emphases and characteristics has come to national notice in the 20th century. Researchers have learnt of its range through Taylor's comprehensive bibliography (1972). The outcome of a librarian's knowledge, like many books in this area it arose from a scholarly interest in the language and culture. The inclusion of McRae's survey in the 1991 Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English also singled out the literature as a special yet integral part of national publishing. This kind of juxtaposition of English and Māori literature has rarely occurred—the 1980s Penguin anthologies of New Zealand poetry with songs in Māori and English are other examples. The rarity derives in part from the fact that there is little public appreciation of this literature. Until very recently it was not taught as part of school and university curricula. It is not uncommon to hear or read in letters to the newspaper, opinion of the kind which, it is said, led to the rejection of Apirana Ngata's recommendation in 1925 that the language be a subject for the BA at the University of New Zealand—that there is no Māori literature.

The shift to greater awareness of this literature might be attributed to Māori themselves who, since the 1970s, have strongly asserted their cultural identity and set out to reclaim a cultural heritage diminished by colonisation. This has involved extensive research into family and tribal history for personal satisfaction and for submission of claims on land and possessions to the Waitangi Tribunal. Schools and universities have responded to this cultural renaissance by tuition in Māori language and subjects, thus generating a demand for literature for teaching. The guardians of print, librarians, have likewise turned attention to accumulation, preservation and access to Māori literature.

Increased demand for Māori materials especially by Māori researchers has led to better cataloguing of them and to appointment of specialist librarians. There has been published documentation of collections, National Archives' Guide to Māori Sources (1995) and Curnow's catalogue of manuscripts in the Auckland Museum Library, Ngā Pou ārahi (1995). Computerised databases for popular materials such as the Māori Land Court minute books are also underway. Moreover, in the last decade many Māori have been employed as librarians or as elder experts to advise on collections. They have encouraged Māori into libraries and reminded libraries of their obligations to this unique literature. More has been communicated in the press and on television about this part of the nation's heritage, especially about the manuscripts. Such developments have given rise to new publishing.

In terms of preferred publications, the 20th century is like the 19th in that serials retain an important place. The churches' continued acknowledgement of the language is expressed in periodicals. Meeting religious and secular interests, and all in Māori, some ran on from last century, others started anew, but circulation of them ceased around the 1960s: Te Toa Takitini from the Church of England and the Presbyterian Te Waka Karaitiana are well known examples. The Journal of the Polynesian Society saw most participation by Māori and of Māori material around the turn of the century and up to the 1950s. Cultural and linguistic custom, historical traditions, contemporary issues were the subject of articles and debate between Māori and Pākehā subscribers. Since then Māori content has been slight and from academics. Other journals have published articles and oral texts in the language but, like the Journal of the Polynesian Society, have been primarily in English: Te Ao Hou (1952-75) from the Māori Affairs Department; Te Karanga (1985-90) produced by subscriptions to the Canterbury Māori Studies Association; He Pukenga Kōrero (1995- ) from Massey University's Māori Studies Department; the glossy magazine Mana (1993- ) an independent Māori publication.

In the late 20th century there has been a resurgence of newspapers. They are regionally or tribally based and report local and national news. There is also an occasional serialised literature in Māori—pamphlets, booklets, newsletters. In these later serials there is a clear sense of Māori purpose and readership which, however, is not exclusive, not only because (unlike those of last century) they have only sections in Māori, but because they report on Māori life which is now intrinsically bicultural.

Māori began the more substantial (in time, cost and expertise) publishing of books this century. The teaching texts have been referred to but by the end of the century there were diverse books in Māori and English and, like the serials, these were serving Māori needs. Books of the oral traditions are discussed above and demonstrate the significant role of scholars such as Apirana Ngata. He and others of his generation were accomplished writers in both languages and corresponded and contributed articles to contemporary journals on many matters. Pei Te Hurinui Jones also had a publishing record, of books in English about Tainui traditions, and of translations from The Merchant of Venice (1946) and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1975). Over the course of this century Māori scholars such as Te Rangihīroa (Sir Peter Buck), Hirini Moko Mead, and I.H. Kāwharu, have published books in English about Māori culture. A new genre of tribal histories has arisen, some—J.H. Mitchell's Takitimu (1944) for instance—compiled by tribal members; these have put a tribal stamp on the literature, as have descriptive catalogues of treasured features of tribal territories such as F.L. Phillips's Landmarks of Tainui (1989). There have also been many ethnographies by Pākehā who have drawn information from literature in Māori and of the oral traditions, notably the work of Elsdon Best.

As the century has progressed more Māori have published in Māori. There has been writing in new genres, including non-fiction (to use a literary term): Barlow's bilingual descriptions of cultural concepts Tikanga Whakaaro (1991) and, all in Māori, Hēmi Pōtatau's autobiography (1991) and āti Ruanui leader and prophet, Tītokowaru (Ruka Broughton's biography of the Ng1993), in which oral traditions, contemporary talk and written sources were brought together. Many Māori writers and translators participate in the largest document of printed Māori, Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau (1990-96), the Māori editions of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. All these are new kinds of writing, intended for a public readership, which test the resources of the little-used language.

Reprints are another way in which the literature has grown. A substantial trio in Māori—and without translation, suggesting a new readership—reproduced writings by Ngāti Porou elders, Apirana Ngata, Mohi Tūrei, Rēweti Kōhere and others, prepared by Wiremu and Te Ohorere Kaa (1994-96). These have traditional histories, letters, articles on political issues, local anecdotes, most published in turn-of-the-century journals and books. (The number of Ngāti Porou publishers is interesting, perhaps the influence of Ngata.) There have been other, informal, products in Māori from Māori Studies departments in universities: transcriptions of 19th-century letters and manuscripts, texts of newly composed songs.

A statement of the scope of Māori writing, particularly of that in English, is made in the five volumes of Te Ao Mārama (1992-96) edited by Witi Ihimaera. This anthology of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children's literature contains some new writing but is mainly reprints which, taken together, illustrate how the size of this literature is disguised by its appearance in serials, newspapers, small books. The writing exemplifies how Māori use both oral and literary genres. In English there are short stories, novels, poetry, plays. These styles are known and emulated by Māori writers from their unavoidable experience of English literature at school. In Māori there are songs, mythological accounts, stories of tribal tradition, a little creative writing. But there is also movement between genres; writing in English often pays homage to the oral traditions by quotations and allusions. The development from an oral tradition in Māori to a literature in Māori and English begs its own study which might be informed by comparison with this transition in other South Pacific cultures as summarised in Subranami's South Pacific Literature (1985) and Norman Simms's work.

Literature helped Māori cross the divide between the oral traditions and English. If capitulation to English was disappointing, it at least enabled the vital human habits of composing stories and poetry and led to the renowned work of writers such as Keri Hulme and Hōne Tūwhare. As the fiction of Patricia Grace and Witi Ihimaera tells, the move from the tribal and Māori language domain to the city and English created, by its strangeness, a new life to be written about. In the 19th century Māori were secure in their culture and selectively incorporated the strange, new literature and experiences into it. Māori who write in English often reflect on the differences between the old secure world and the new strange one, especially in terms of loss of language, voice and culture, which print cannot on its own return. In Patricia Grace's novel Potiki (1986) the characters regret learning strangers' stories at school while their own have to be rediscovered in themselves and told. Literature brought new stories; the old stories are now in part (oral storytelling is a strong tradition in Māori families) retold in this new way, in English and through print. From this writing in English there have been two translations into Māori, of Ihimaera's books Pounamu, Pounamu (1986) and The Whale Rider (1987). (This resembles the 19th-century translating of Pilgrim's Progress, insofar as it is publishing with an intention other than the author's, in this case to promote the language.) But there has been little original fiction in Māori. Some short stories appeared in Te Ao Hou in the 1950s and 1960s, a small collection Ngā Pakiwaitara a Huia, was published in 1995. Fictional writing in Māori has been mainly stories for children.

Since the 1980s the amount of publishing of literature for children has been striking, some is included in the fourth volume of Te Ao Mārama (1994). Print again has been enlisted to aid language acquisition. Some books are bilingual, many solely in Māori; ancient and modern life are content for the stories. Many Māori have been drawn to this task, and books have come off the press in great numbers. The Ministry of Education has sponsored them, mainstream publishers have produced handsome examples, and others have been published with pride and dedicated purpose by small groups in local communities.

Major incentives for Māori publishing in the 20th century might be posited as to turn the tide of language loss by provision for teaching, and to preserve traditional knowledge. But there are signs—the newspapers, children's literature, and writing in English—that publishing has broader objects, perhaps the typically literary use of making ideas, knowledge, and stories public. Most publishing has been funded by government, through educational institutions or funds designated for literature and the arts. Self-sufficiency in publishing has been rare, economically difficult, but as Māori have gained economic and cultural autonomy, there has been a move to independent publishing. There are certain long-standing centres of production such as churches of different denominations and of the Māori faiths of Ringatū and Ratana, which publish Māori prayer and hymn books, new editions of the Māori Bible, journals. Limited funds, the small potential readership, sometimes the speed with which things are produced, have led to the corpus of Māori literature having numerous small, plain, functional items—typescripts, pamphlets, booklets, newspapers—put out in small print runs, often by desktop publishing. These have a limited circulation, easily disappear and do not make an impression on the market, yet much can be learnt from this casual, fragile literature. It is also witness to how print is used—to commemorate the opening of a meeting-house or a family reunion. Print is also engaged to proclaim the importance of the language, to urge speaking of it—Māori words, songs, quotations, appear on calendars, posters, clothing, advertising.

A comprehensive survey of 20th-century printing might also confirm a change in publishers' attitudes to Māori literature. Previously wary of the small readership, there has been specific promotion from university presses and the publishing houses of Penguin, Reed in particular (who have long
black and white print

The building in the centre foreground is Wellington's first library, established in 1841 as the 'Port Nicholson Exchange and General Library', and run on a subscription basis with Dr F.J. Knox as librarian. Settler publican Dicky Barrett sold the building which had been his first house (and possibly grog-shop) on the corner of what is now Molesworth Street and Lambton Quay to the library Committee for £30. The library did not prosper and was wound up in April 1842, with the collection handed over to its successor, the 'Port Nicholson Mechanics' Institute, Public School and Library'. This illustration is a detail from Charles Heaphy's watercolour Part of Lambton Harbour, in Port Nicholson, New Zealand, 11 April 1841.(Making New Zealand Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, reference number F-115-1/4-MNZ)

supported it), and Huia Publishers who have it as a special brief. Whether from goodwill or sufficient market, this fact along with Māori concern for their own style of product has brought many better-looking, prominent books. There is still, however, a hidden literature in libraries and archives—books that are out of print, articles in defunct journals, manuscripts. Much could be done with a programme of reprints.

New initiatives in publishing brought attention back to concerns which translators of the Bible faced last century about the orthography and standards for print. The Māori Language Commission has played a key role in specifying conventions for marking of long vowels, word breaks, spelling, hyphenation in names. This work, which predicts a future for publishing in the language, has been done to encourage use of Māori in print, for teaching purposes, and in concert with editors of pioneering projects such as the Māori volumes of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. The need for this is indicated too by the standard of public notices in Māori; these often show a lack of familiarity with written conventions, a tendency to write the language as it is spoken. The Commission has communicated its recommendations for printed modern Māori in booklets, pamphlets, and its Māori newsletter. It has contributed significantly to the quality and quantity of printed Māori by translation of all kinds of public documents, newspaper advertisements, job descriptions, notices. This proliferation of public documents in Māori is perhaps a consequence of the 1987 Act which made Māori an official language of New Zealand.

If Māori sometimes seem uninterested in, even averse to, literature, it may be because some books about them have been antithetical to their reality or produced without acknowledgement of their contributions or without their authority. Michael King registers opinion on this in 'Some Maori attitudes to documents' (1978). There is of course no way in which literature can be entirely trusted, but for Māori it has raised the issue, in respect of traditional knowledge at least, of intellectual property rights. The literature of the later 20th century is much more theirs, produced essentially for themselves or in cooperation with Pākehā. Nevertheless a history of 20th-century Māori publishing would need to canvass Māori opinion as to their preferences for its use.

Although this brief survey suggests a limited, highly selective, even predominantly scholars' use of print by Māori for literature in Māori and English, it is not sufficient an investigation to attribute reasons for this. Further research might assess how the enduring oral traditions, colonisation, and cultural custom have determined Māori use of the utilities of literacy. If there had not been the experience of colonisation, it may have been that Māori would not have chosen to use print as a primary technology, as some oral societies new to print have done. But language loss is evidently one reason for the paucity of literature in Māori. Print demands sophistication with written language, if not from the writer then at least from editors and publishers. That sophistication is acquired when language is used as a first language and there is schooling in it. One overriding aspect of almost two centuries of Māori use of writing, print and publishing has been the continuing decline in the number of people who speak Māori as a first language. Moreover, Māori has only relatively recently been taught in schools and universities, the very places which prepare people to publish. In view of this the fact that there is so much printing in Māori is remarkable. Print cannot do what speech can, keep the language alive, and that is an imperative for many Māori. Print meantime plays a role towards that and, in addition, maintains the language as a revered object of study for future scholars of Māori and of the history of humanity.