Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Lessons of the Tikongs

Epeli Hau’ofa’s Tale of the Tikongs profoundly corresponds to this unit’s geography signifier. Even though Tiko is not a place that one can find on a map of the South Pacific, it resonates with the reader that the experiences of the indigenous people who live there are very much real. Whether Samoans or Maori or Aboriginals, these people have had much to overcome in their dealings with Western colonization. Hau’ofa combines alternative wisdom with South Pacific traditions, giving his work two distinct levels of depth.
The first level of Tales of the Tikongs is the surface level. The anecdotes are humorous, ridiculous, and excessive, providing for an entertaining read. The gratuitousness of the stories keeps them interesting. Because the construction of the book is not particularly linear, a reader can pick up the story at the beginning of any chapter and still understand the author’s meaning.

Unlike most stories that we read in early childhood and then re-read in early adulthood for deeper meanings (Lord of the Flies, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, etc.), Tales of the Tikongs contains more explicit material and adult themes which would not be appropriate for children (even though Hau’ofa treats the material casually). For this reason, the book would only be read at a level of greater maturity; one in which the reader clearly identifies the deeper levels of meaning.
This brings into question the second level of Hau’ofa’s book. For each story, the reader is able to see a clearly-emerging moral, oftentimes the complete opposite of what the characters in the stories believe. The influence of Western colonization on the Tikongs brings to the forefront of the reader’s mind the difficulties inherent in cultural subordination. The aloofness, greed, and insensitivity of the Western world and the laziness, indolence, and apathy of the Tikongs combine to teach the reader lessons about the importance of independence as well as allegiance to one’s own lifestyle, whatever it may be.

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