26 Fruits


Antipodean Crossings 2

Last week I wrote about Dark Angels in Kare Kare at the extraordinary house of Sir Bob Harvey and the powhiri, the Maori welcoming ceremony.

Let me rewind to the time of arrival…Bob tells me that the bed I will sleep in once belonged to former Prime Minister Richard Seddon. The name means little to me. Later, in Wellington, on a tour of Parliament where new PM Jacinda Ardern is a star performer as we watch from the gallery, the guide refers to Richard Seddon ‘New Zealand’s longest-serving prime minister’. Apparently he served 12 years and died while in post. My mind stirs with slight unease at the thought. I wonder where he died.

But the connection with ancestors is a Maori thought that I relate to. There is a thread of Maori people and words that runs through this trip. It might not always have been so, but now there is a real respect for Maori culture growing in New Zealand, and the intermingling of cultures can be very moving. There is something in this that connects well with Dark Angels.

From a very shallow brush with Maori language, I enjoy its rhythm and lyricism. The sound and use of repetition in the language seems to me to have practical roots: I imagine the waka (canoe) being paddled with rhythmic strokes. Pekapeka. Te papa. Kare Kare. The language, even in its place names, seems to have an incantatory spiritual quality. Or do I imagine that?

I believe in the imagination. These qualities – practical and spiritual – seem to express a truth about the language of the Maoris and their relationship to the world, in which they are guardians of the land. And ‘practically spiritual’ strikes me as a fair description of the Dark Angels approach; there is a resonance at least.

This resonance runs through a wonderful description that one of our Kare Kare students wrote afterwards. (Kare Kare, by the way, means ‘Dig Dig’.) Jane Langley’s words are as good a description of Dark Angels as I’ve yet seen.

I think what happens at Dark Angels is that you raise the stakes.

You get together with a bunch of strangers and you write, and share, and write, and share, and write, and share, until with this next piece, you suddenly hear a catch in your voice. And that catch is the connection you have finally made. 

Without realising you were doing it, you have been carving out a deep trench with your pen, and now that you’re deep down in that trench, you meet other diggers, and the meeting is profound. It’s a down-deep connection to each other, but more importantly, it’s to yourself, and the self you are now able to bring to the page.

I find there is more still to reflect on and write, too much for this week’s blog, so I will return next week with more if any of you would like to read more. Let me know.

4 Responses

  1. Therese says:

    Absolutely more please!

  2. Gillian says:

    Definitely more. And what a fabulously vivid description of the Dark Angels experience from Jane.

  3. I agree, John. The Maori presence, in the form of the powhiri, made for an even more powerful invocation than our usual incantations. I’m sure it was because of the direct connection with the genius loci, the spirit of the place. When we invite that ‘something else’ to be present at our gatherings, we never know quite how it will manifest. At Kare Kare, it was in Jane’s beautiful and powerful insight, among other things.

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