Last night we were lucky to attend the opening of ‘The Long Waves of Our Ocean’ exhibition at the National Library of New Zealand.
Five early career artists responded to works from five great poets of Aotearoa New Zealand, including a poem by Albert Wendt. His two daughters spoke at the opening, reading his poem and telling what it was like to be raised in his family amongst his literary and artistic friends.
At university I read Albert Wendt’s book ‘Leaves of the Banyan Tree’. It was a personally important book for me to read. It gave a window to a world I knew very little of, despite it being part of my heritage.
My Samoan grandmother died when I was a baby, and while it was present in our upbringing, we had little influence from our Samoan heritage. When I was a young woman my father apologised that he hadn’t been able to raise us with the language – it wasn’t encouraged when he was a child so he hadn’t learnt. Like so many migrant languages it wasn’t viewed as beneficial and has led to our generational gaps in competency.
After the opening we went in to view the exhibition. I found myself enjoying one of the works alongside his two daughters and the eldest engaged me in conversation. I got to tell her about the window her father’s book had given me and she told me about growing up in a household where Prime Minister’s would come to stay, and where her father’s friends were the likes of Ralph Hotare and Sam Hunt. It was amazing. She encouraged me to visit Samoa, and thanked me for sharing my story about her father. I left the exhibition feeling connected, humbled and inspired.
Thank you Tim for the opportunity to attend. You have reopened a window.