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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 37 No. 3. March 20, 1974

Witi is sorry for me

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Witi is sorry for me

Tena koe,

I have been kicked around all my life by people like Roger Steele on one hand and Sir James Wattie on the other, people who want me to do what they want rather than what my heart tells me what I should do. But unlike Roger Steele (in his review of my book Tangi, Salient, March 6), at least the aim has been at my balls. I have never been kicked in the heart before.

It is not so much his criticism of my work that bothers me for at least he has the honesty to say his literary sensibility is dim. I quite agree.

What appalls me, however, is his Pakeha cynicism which leads him to suspect my motives (opportunism, cashing in on a few memories, stealing the thunder of other Maori writers etc), and the Pakeha arrogance to say that one is "invited" (his word not mine) to forget reality and politics when reading my work and that the class interests I serve are the middle and upper classes of society rather than the oppressed sections of the Maori people. Roger Steele should keep his White liberalism, attitudes and generalisations within his own European framework for man, he's way out.

His Pakeha attitude is also exposed in his putting down of my experience. Would you believe it, a Pakeha telling me that my experiences are "spurious"! His experiences may be different, so what! I am writing about my own and some of them are not as "quaint" as Roger Steele thinks them to be. I trust my own experience, I follow the dictates of my heart. No Pakeha or Maori, no Government, so-called "class interest'", pressure group or individual will tell me what to write about my own people. If others want to tell it the way they see it, fair enough. But like Sir Jamies, I'm sure not going to let Roger Steele patronise me (and why didn't he reprint my answer to Sir James at the "Book of the Year" ceremony?)

I just wonder what Roger Steele is trying to prove. Is he implying I am a "little brown boy"? (Man, I can shoot that implication down in flames!' Is he saying I am not for die Maori people? He certainly seems to be saying my experiences are wrong and his are right. And to give credence to his view, he has done a patch-up job to suggest I ignore racial contention (have I got news tor him!), a lack of sincerity and have suspect motives. His method is a tissue of insinuations which I find ominously hilarious.

I am committed to the Maori people and Maoritanga in a way Roger Steele could never understand. I have maintained this commitment despite all the kicks I've had going through the system (and acts of Pakeha ignorance as in Salient's misspelling of my name as Itimaera —Sir James couldn't pronounce it properly, Salient can't even spell it correctly which is "hard to ignore, eh"?). Roger Steele's kick to my heart and lack of understanding about the literary genre I wrote Tangi in (Maori traditional poetry) shows his comprehension of Maoritanga as being less than he makes it out to be, and more than anything else I am sorry for him.

Witi Ihimaera

[We spelt your name right fifteen times. Our proofreaders missed the sixteenth. I apologise for that. — Ed.