Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Truth in Tales of the Tikongs

Throughout the twelve sketches in Epeli Hau’ofa’s Tales of the Tikongs, significant questions and issues are proposed, probed, and prodded. Many of these elements, however, are hidden behind the exaggerated antics of the Tikongs and Hau’ofa’s cunning humor and satire, which give the reader an opportunity to not only ask, “What is Hau’ofa’s point of view?,” but more importantly, “What are my perspectives?” One of the most striking questions raised through each story is the question of truth. What is truth?

In “The Winding Road to Heaven,” Hau’ofa explains the how the Tikongs are perceived by foreigners as being liars, but he states, “truth comes in portions, some large, some small, but never whole” (7). The most important part of that sentence is “never whole.” In other words, Epeli is implying the Tikongs are not the only liars, but, in fact, we all are in some fashion or another liars, for our perceptions are unique and individual to ourselves and therefore a truth that a Tikong holds may not be a truth an Australian, New Zealander, or American may hold and vice versa. This concept ties into later on in the sketch when Hau’ofa says, “Truth is flexible and can be bent this way so and that way so; it can be stood on its head, be hidden in a box, and be sat upon” (8). With this sentence, one can assume that Hau’ofa is implying the truth of Imperialism, as each of the stories deals with some aspect of imperialism and its influence on Tiko. From a western perspective, the truth of Imperialism is that it brings “civilization” to savage, undeveloped lands; there is no mention of the truth of discrimination and dissection of culture that is seen only through the eyes of the Oceanic people.

One of the other questions of truth is raised with the opening line of the aforementioned sketch. “Religion and Education Destroy Original Wisdom…”(7). These words appear on Manu’s shirt, and Manu “is the only teller of big truths in the realm” (7). With these two points, Hau’ofa is implying that for his realm, the realm of the Pacific islands, original wisdom gained from the community and from the land is truth; their natural and traditional ways are truth. In the western realm, religion and formal education may be the truth, but not necessarily in Tiko. Hau’ofa wants his readers to think about their own personal realm and what is considered truth is that realm and through this exercise, the audience can realize how to appreciate the varying truths from around the world.

Although Hau’ofa does not offer a direct and explicit answer to his very philosophical question, he provokes his readers to think--think about history, their place in history, their culture, their identity, and their views about fellow human beings. Perhaps the one truth that Hau’ofa wants us to understand and realize as a whole truth through this process is that we are all humans.

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