- Gary Wyatt (Author) and Nigel Reading (Author)
Manawa: Pacific Heartbeat: A Celebration of Contemporary Maori & Northwest Coast Art. Douglas & McIntyre (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Niigonwedom J. Sinclair
Global economic “progress,” particularly by “first-world” nations, has depended on the violent conquest, subjugation and exploitation of Indigenous nations. Nowadays, multinational corporations (MNCs) have joined the colonial project and use international trade law to plunder Indigenous cultures for commodifiable resources. Native peoples have met these new invasion attempts with forceful resistance, asserting their sovereignties through art, writing and international lobbying.
Two recent books document this cacophony. The first, Paradigm Wars, edited by Jerry Mander and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, is a bold, confrontational text that documents how the neo-liberal agenda of global economic institutions, particularly the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund, foster a global climate where resources are required to feed a “never-ending exponential economic growth.” Indigenous nations, which stubbornly remain stewards of most of the world’s remaining resources, are left to fend off unprecedented assaults on their claims, ethics and knowledges by nations and MNCs hungry for maximum profit.
In this powerful anthology, twenty-seven intellectuals and activists assert that globalization should learn from and make space for Indigenous ideologies and practices, not vice versa. Principles such as common property traditions, agricultural biodiversity and cooperative relationships with nature will be “crucial if we are to save whatever is left of the planet’s cultural and biological diversity,” writes Tauli-Corpuz, but this will only be possible if we protect Indigenous nations’ “right to remain separate and distinct.”
But if today’s climate is any barometer, Indigenous sovereignty is not on the global trade agenda. Native nations continue to have their rights denied (as ongoing US atomic bomb testing in the Marshall Islands and human rights abuses in South America attest), their lands mined for resources (such as oil in the territories of the Ogoni, U’Wa and the Bagyéli, gold in Western Shoshoni lands and fresh water in communities across the world) and their medicines, sacred objects and intellectual property stolen (and “legally” patented by MNCs). In the book’s most ironic example, Mark Dowie shows how global environmental conglomerates such as Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund also follow this anti-Indigenous trend, lobbying for national parks and “wilderness” areas made from Native lands (thus making those communities “conservation refugees”). Paradigm Wars is essential reading for global citizens who give money to save the rain forest, hang dream catchers on our dashboards and eat flour tortillas with our dinner—all play a part in the exploitation of Indigenous peoples.
The book also does a good job of recording some strong examples of how Indigenous communities have used the global economy to create sustainable industry (such as ecotourist programs by communities in Belize and Australia), fought their subjugation and forged alliances with other movements, as listed in the section entitled “Turning Points.” Successes at the United Nations, the campesino-led revolution in Bolivia and the use and sale of eco-friendly wind power by savvy US Indian tribes all show encouraging trends. The text would have been more balanced if it spent more time studying these examples and engaging with the critical issues economic self-sustainability raises in a capitalist-driven world as well as with how these struggles have inspired moments of Indigenous agency, adaptation and innovation.
The text is blatantly activist, bordering on heavy-handed, but perhaps with so urgent an issue, it should be. Of essential value are the excellent resource lists of activist organizations and copies of Indigenous-led international agreements, such as the UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDDRIP) and the Mataatua Declaration. Of course, more advocacy and research must be done. As Tauli-Corpuz reminds us, “There is no slowing down,” for Indigenous peoples must continue to speak, act and organize, ensuring that “governments, corporations, intergovernmental bodies and even social movements and revolutionary groups deal with the indigenous question if they operate in indigenous territory.”
Indirectly embodying the calls for Indigenous political movements is the beautifully crafted and powerful Manawa: Pacific Heartbeat: A Celebration of Contemporary Maori & Northwest Coast Art, edited by Nigel Reading and Gary Wyatt. The collection, containing over 60 works from 31 Maori and 15 Northwest Coast First Nations artists, chronicles the intellectual-aesthetical collaboration between these two Indigenous groups, culminating in a 2006 public showing at the Spirit Wrestler Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Against the back of a nation that continues to refuse to affirm the UNDDRIP and situated in a city that planned its 2010 Olympic bid around the illegal seizure of First Nations lands (and unveiled a logo that bastardizes and steals Inuit knowledge while ignoring local cultures), this book assures us that Indigenous voices continue to resist erasure and live lives on their terms.
The book is sharp, historical and gorgeous, explaining in detail how the artistic legacies of both peoples are tied together by three central themes: Whirirangi: Woven Heavens (Sky), Moanauri: Oceanic Bloodlines (Water) and Papawhenua (Land). Foregrounding the pieces (all of which were commissioned) are excellent historical essays, highlighted by a phenomenal tracing of Maori art by Te Kahui Maunga artist Darcy Nicholas. The three themes divide the book and give shape to pages filled with intertribal collaboration, speaking to powerful relationships between earth and human, spirit and body, north and south. Beneficial are the explanations of each piece by the artist, but often it is in examining the pieces in conversation that more teachings emerge. For instance, while examining two pieces, “Caged Culture” by Ngati Kahungunu painter Sandy Adsett and “Hilang—Thunderbird—Supernatual Being” by Haida painter Robert Davidson, I found connecting thoughts of cultural transformation and fluidity. In Stan Bevan’s “Frog and Raven Warrior” and Lewis Gardiner’s “Whiria Te Kaha…,” there are reminders of the importance of genealogy, animal relations and ancestral memory. The book’s themes are essential starting points, but it is in the ceremony of reading, thinking and comparing that one finds messages containing humour, hunting, giving, gluttony, sharing, balance, destruction, beauty. Manawa is a powerful example of the possibility of Indigenous collaboration, politically and socially, and how important these voices are in teaching us diversity, not neo-liberal homogeneity. It is a powerful and persuasive argument that Indigenous cultures must be supported in their efforts to remain sovereign and distinct on their own terms, no matter the needs of economic “progress.”
- Power of Stories by Sophie McCall
Books reviewed: Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese and The Moon of Letting Go by Richard Van Camp
- Two Portraits of Carr by Ann Morrison
Books reviewed: Emily Carr: At the Edge of the World by Jo Ellen Bogart and Four Pictures by Emily Carr by Nicholas Debon
- Between the Images by Peter Geller
Books reviewed: I Have Lived Here Since the World Began: An Illustrated History of Canada's Native People by Arthur J. Ray
- Drab Little Nothings by Michelle Ariss
Books reviewed: The Laughing One: A Journey to Emily Carr by Susan Crean
- Whose Canada? by Carole Gerson
Books reviewed: The Museum Called Canada by Sara Angel and Charlotte Gray
MLA: Sinclair, Niigonwedom J. Resisting Globalization. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #196 (Spring 2008), Diasporic Women's Writing. (pg. 168 - 169)
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