An Act of Cultural Resistance

downloadThe Last Earth: A Palestinian Story by Ramzy Baroud (Pluto Press, London 2018)

Reviewed by Andrew Raba

Ramzy Baroud’s The Last Earth is a collection of eight narratives told by ordinary Palestinians who have, in their own way, struggled against the violence inflicted upon their country by Israel over the past one hundred years. The book bears witness to the immense bravery of Palestinians and to the scale of violence that has taken lives, torn families apart and displaced entire populations across the world. Baroud’s book comes at a time of sharpening tensions within Palestine. In March, Donald Trump issued a provocative signal of the United States’ commitment to Israel by opening an embassy in Jerusalem. At the same time, New Zealand pop star Lorde decided not to play in Israel marking a significant victory for the BDS movement. Most significantly, the past months have seen mass marches of Palestinians demanding the right of return on the seventieth anniversary of the 1948 Nakba.

The Last Earth contributes to the struggle today by foregrounding the humanity of the Palestinian people. The book contains stories that range from present-day Gaza, to the impact of the Balfour Declaration of 1922, from the refugee crisis of 2012, to the lives of Palestinian families living in Melbourne, Australia as part of the international diaspora. By drawing on the stories of individuals Baroud cuts against the reductive presentation of Palestinians as either militants, victims or grim statistics on a lop-sided score board. Moreover, by collating these stories into a single volume Baroud is able to draw out the common experiences that determine a shared Palestinian history. Above all, each account is marked by a deep sense of displacement. The forced exile of Palestinians from their homeland creates, in Edward Said’s words, “a rift or a barricade, ‘between the self and its true home’, restraining the person from residing in a place of comfort.” In each story we find a version of this unease and longing for home. It is this longing that fuels their struggle for a free Palestine. Yet, it is also this longing that runs through Palestinian lives as an open wound. [Read more…]

There are no white people

don-brash-CREDIT-NEWSHUB-291117-1120

Bigoted Brash blethers because bothered by bilingual broadcaster

By Dougal McNeill

A pleasing irony to end the year: enrolments by non-Māori in Māori language courses in the Wellington region have surged recently, encouraged in part it seems by the reactionary campaign against the use of Te Reo Māori on Radio New Zealand. It’s a welcome sign.

Socialists support any and all efforts to revitalise, preserve and celebrate te reo Māori. Language and culture are democratic rights. Whānau have the right to have their tamariki educated in the language of their choice, and the state should massively fund Māori language instruction and support – in Kura Kaupapa Māori as well as in schools generally – to make this possible. Genuine open access to university and better student allowances would allow more Māori to reconnect with their language, as would further funding for wānanga and other language providers. We defend any moves to centre the use of Māori as a lived official language. The example of French in Canada shows that, where there is a political will, there is always a linguistic way. The Māori Language Commission, Māori Television, te reo Māori in schools, arts and culture funding: these are all products of the long struggle for Māori rights, and represent democratic advances. And they are a benefit to the whole class, not just Māori themselves. My daughter comes home from primary school proud of the waiata she has learned, and can say a karakia before meals. There is plenty around us to feel good about.

This year has seen a flowering of Māori intellectual, cultural and artistic life. Carwyn Jones’s prize-winning book on legal theory is being reviewed and debated internationally. Tina Makereti’s speech on Māori literature and what is taught (and not taught) set a challenge for literary critics working in New Zealand. Vini Olsen-Reeder graduated with a PhD from Victoria in December for a thesis written entirely in Māori. Rawinia Higgins, Jessica Hutchings and Olsen-Reeder have just published an important book on strategies for language revitalisation. And those are just examples from around where I live – much more is going on elsewhere. It’s an exciting time to be alive and be thinking. [Read more…]

Nice Work if You Can Get It

don franks nice work

Nice Work if You Can Get It; Notes from a Musician’s Diary

By Don Franks (Steele Roberts, $19.99)

 

Reviewed by Shomi Yoon

 

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be a fly on the wall of the social functions of the rich and powerful but not be tainted by that experience, then Don Frank’s Notes are  whimsical retellings of being that musician. From playing for the Young Nats, to Piggy Muldoon’s birthday party at a high class Italian restaurant, even to the Police Association, Don has played for the lot. [Read more…]

Call Mr Robeson

locandina

Call Mr Robeson

The Moorings, 31 Glenbervie Terrace, Wellington

Until 1st March.

Tickets $18/$14 0800 BUY TIX

http://www.fringe.co.nz

Reviewed by Daniel Simpson Beck.

Call Mr. Robeson is written and performed by Tayo Aluko. Through monologue and song, he brings to life the memory of a man who the American ruling class would rather we forgot.

Paul Robeson, born in New Jersey, USA in 1898, was a man who excelled in many different areas; athletics, law, singing, acting and languages to name but a few. He won a scholarship to Rutgers University and was one of only two black students thoughout his four years there. He excelled in his studies and became one of the best footballers of the time. But it was singing and acting, in movies such as Show Boat in 1936, that brought him worldwide fame. He was one of the world’s leading concert singers in the 1930s and 1940s. He starred in Othello in what became and remains the longest-running production of a Shakespeare play on Broadway. So why were his name and achievements omitted from countless books about the history of American musicians and actors? In Call Mr. Robeson we learn that it was his passion for politics that lead the ruling elite to try and obliterate him from the history books. [Read more…]