A review of Tina Ngata’s Kia Mau: Resisting Colonial Fictions

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Tina Ngata of Ngāti Porou has recently published Kia Mau: Resisting Colonial Fictions. At the launch of this book on 28th November 2019, Tina Ngata described how she had started with a blog called The Non-plastic Māori, exploring “the experience of living for a year without purchasing any new plastics”, which quickly developed to explore wider environmental issues and then progressed to a critique colonialism as the mindset of subjugation, disconnectedness, and exploitation. Kia Mau is born from that critique.

The New Zealand Government, through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, has been celebrating through 2019/2020 an event called Tuia 250, dedicated to the “encounter” between Captain James Cook and Māori. With encouragement from activist Valerie Morse, Tina Ngata collected together nine of her essays on colonialism, with a focus on the modern Tuia 250 event and the historic arrival of Cook. Tina Ngata works to dispel the myths of Cook’s voyage being one of scientific exploration, and reveals that Cook was driven by a mindset known as the Doctrine of Discovery which held that non Christian indigenous people such as Māori could be conquered, enslaved, and used for the profit of Christian empires such as that of England. Cook was on a military mission to expand the British Empire, and commanded the naval vessel Endeavour for that purpose. The chapter Cook’s crime spree in Aotearoa is a two page timeline and map depicting a roughly three month period during which Cook killed, wounded, kidnapped, and tortured Māori. And all this was only the celebrated “first encounter”.

Tina Ngata goes on to draw parallels with the struggles of other indigenous peoples, call out the environmental consequences of the colonial mindset, and in the final essay Wetewetehia 250 she describes educational guidelines to address misinterpretations and correct colonial mistruths. In Tina Ngata’s own words, this work discusses: “how we might envision a more ethical remembering of who we are and what is important in order to set a pathway for who we want to be in the future.”

As a Pākehā who has learned what Tina Ngata describes as colonial fictions, I found this book at once thought-provoking, enlightening, sobering, and motivating. Tina Ngata has produced an important work that deserves attention.

Kia Mau: Resisting Colonial Fictions is published by Rebel Press, and is available from Unity Books, Wellington.