Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Land and People in Potiki

In Potiki, Patricia Grace puts forth a universal connection showing that relationships and group effort create one’s homeland because of the ties between land and people. Land brings people together because working on the land as a group forms bonds. For instance, Grace writes, “They [people from all over the country] understood that the house of the people is a great taonga and a great strength. They understood that the little money that was finally awarded to us could not give back the life and love that go into the making of a place” (143). She explains that due to the connection between people and land, one finds great strength within oneself amongst the relationships that are formed (especially relationships formed during a group project) and the effort one makes to benefit one’s homeland.

As shown in Potiki, the importance of relationships and group effort is seen on Loyola’s campus (my home away from home), as well. As a Jesuit institution, Loyola promotes service. Not only is it a way to benefit others, but also one learns more about oneself. As Kolvenbach explains, education is more than just concepts, but about contact; when one is able to apply what was taught in class, to outside experiences. For instance, I have been a part of Habitat for Humanity since freshman year, and cannot even describe how much of an amazing experience it is. By building a house as a group, relationships and memories form and a bond is shared. As I have learned in Habitat for Humanity, “we are not building houses, but building homes.” It is not the physical house that is important, but what the house symbolizes for the new homeowner and the volunteers; for instance, signifying the union of a community and the beginning of a new chapter in one’s life with new friends and the memory of the work that went into creating this new home. Grace writes, “They [our visitors] stayed because they knew what it meant to the spirit and upliftment of people to be housed in a house which expressed and defined them” (152). This directly relates to my experience with habitat for humanity for this new home defines the new homeowner who was able to pick the color paint and furnishings in her house. She picked a rather daring pink door because she said, “It shows my fun personality,” and that fun personality really shined through as we built, making our day go by very quickly, and gaining insight into what makes a home truly important.

At the end of the project, it is amazing to see the transformation of the house along with us as volunteers. It is an extremely rewarding experience for both parties involved. As Hemi explains, in Potiki, “They’d seen the fruits of their work, and that the fruit they got was their own. . .It all came back to people. . .They’d all pulled together and the house was being rebuilt because of that. You had to reach out for the branch you knew would hold you when you were drowning” (146-149). One sees the support that Toko and Manu provide for each another, and how Roimata treated Mary when they first became friends, and later became family. The characters in Love and Longing in Bombay, for instance the interaction between Shiv and Shant, also show that our homelands are shaped by the people in our lives.

Grace shows the importance of one’s homeland through the relationships between her main characters and the visitors from Te Ope who help them to rebuild their home. Although the “dollarmen” were building on the Maori land, the Maori stuck together and others joined, understanding the significance of one’s homeland. This demolition described in Potiki is not the basis of creating a good homeland. Grace writes, “They have become just like machines” (151), making me wonder, as stated in class, how much technology rules our lives. Grace explains, “We were able to find ourselves in books. . .[However,] it [television] did not define us. . .There was little on television that we could take to our hearts” (104,105). This is extremely true, as Dana Gioia and Kolvenbach explain, because through education and by reading, one is able to understand others and his/herself better because reading opens doors into other homelands. With education we can choose to use what we have learned to visit other homelands and form relationships with others in which we will learn more about ourselves. In America, we have a homeland that is surrounded by technology, but is our homeland based on the technology we have (television, video games, facebook), or the people we surround ourselves with, and the memories we share with each other during a communal task?

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