Associate Professor Joanna Kidman Works at: Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, NEW ZEALAND. ORCID ID: 0000-0002-5753-8886 Further details at: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/education/about/staff/sedu/joanna-kidman Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent those of my employer, Victoria University of Wellington.
I am a Māori woman who weeps when I hear the words, Ōrākau, Rangiaowhia, Rangiriri, Meremere; this tragic roll call of almost incomprehensible pain and loss. When I drive down Great South Road to the Waikato, I imagine the beat of horse’s hooves and the tramp of soldier’s boots and I feel a catch in my throat.
Recently, during a staff-room lunch break with colleagues in my Faculty, a debate sprang up about teaching about violent histories. They had been talking about the reluctance of the New Zealand Ministry of Education to position New Zealand’s colonial history as a central component of the school curriculum. It was one of those conversations that started casually enough but ended in fiery denunciations and a string of reply-to-all emails that lasted through the afternoon. Someone had brought in a basket of feijoas† from their garden and I tucked into them as the debate unfolded at the other end of the table (I’ve published on this debate so my views are already known to my colleagues).
It is arguably true that the past is a story about grandmothers. Part of my own past can be found in a spiral-bound 8B8 exercise book with a red cover that my mother keeps in a drawer by her bed. A couple of years before her death my grandmother bought the exercise book from the corner shop down the road and in her cramped, arthritic hand, she wrote the story of her life.