Patricia Grace introduces a new way of living within one’s homeland. She obviously stresses the importance of the sea and the land, but I believe that it is in the stories that Grace claims the true “homeland” exists. This point refers back to the notion that a homeland is not simply a location but rather a feeling or an “at home” realization that one experiences when they are surrounded by those who love them. Throughout Potiki I began to realize the importance of generations within a homeland. A home cannot truly be a home without stories of the past, present, and future.
Grace encompasses a number of generations in her novel in order to show the many different aspects that make up a homeland. From Granny’s old stories of her troubled childhood, to Roimata’s memories of growing up with Hemi and Mary, to Toko’s special “knowing” and connection with his siblings, we are able to get a clear understanding of the Maori people and their concept of home. I began to think of my own home and how my family’s generations affect who I am and where I live. Through generations, traditions are passed down and wisdom is obtained through grandparents stories of their past. A homeland truly is an ongoing circle of knowledge. From the elders we learn of the time before us and through our contemporary knowledge our parents and grandparents are able to adapt to a modern society.
Through the generations, a circle is formed that is indestructible. I believe that it is through this circle that a true homeland is formed. This concept is demonstrated in Grace’s work through the importance of the wharekai, or meeting-house. It is in this house that stories are passed from generation to generation. This concept of an everlasting circle is also seen through death and rebirth. For the Maori people, death is not an end but rather a new beginning. It is through death that new life is introduced. When Hemi’s mother dies, a part of his life has ended but a new part has just begun when Roimata re-enters his life. One of the most remarkable scenes in the novel is when the wharekai is burnt to the ground and the villagers must come together to gather up the stories of the past and rebuild a new home, a new place to tell new stories. After a long summer of rebuilding the meeting-house, Roimata claims, “In spite of the threat in our lives there was excitement about, and energy” (151). Through the death of the old meeting-house the people are able to bring new life and vigor to a new home.
The main concept I took away from this novel is that a home is not a home without death and rebirth, past and present, old and young. Through generations and time, a true home is formed and memories are made to be passed on and learned from. Through all of the hardship and struggle the Maori people experienced, they were still able to stand firmly within their homeland and hold strong onto the memories of the past and the hopes for the future. It is this constant circular motion of life that completes a home and makes each homeland unique. Towards the end of the novel, Grace writes, “And the stories continued well into the night, moving from one person to the next about the house until the circle has been fully turned” (180). This conglomeration of stories is the very heart and soul of what makes a home a home.