“Hau’ofa gazes into his arse and sees its beauty, a beauty, he believes, that can save us from ourselves.”
This is a quote Vilsoni Hereniko and it appears in the Editor’s Note at the beginning of Kisses in the Nederends. As readers, we are caught up in the tale of Oilei and his troubled rear end. I cannot deny that I myself had to put down the book and tell one of my roommates about the escapades which I had just read. Repulsive, grotestec, yet mesmerizing. However, many of these characters create a guise over Hau’ofa’s true message. We mustn’t loose ourselves in “the absurdity and improbability of Hau’ofa’s tale,” but discover the meanings of “home” which are being depicted. And they are there.
Through the first part of this book, I can see that Hau’ofa is making two criticisms about “home.”
First, he is critiquing the many Pacific Islanders who are not being honest and true with themselves, their culture, and their people. Throughout Oilei’s quest thus far, he has encountered numerous people who are con-artists and other naïve and dishonest people. There was Losana Tonoka and Marama, the women dottores who were fake healers who had simply inheirited the title as a birthright, not by actual skill. The two of them were ridulous in that if their “treatment” worked they would praise themselves, and if it failed they would blame the white doctors. There was also Domoni, aka the “Conch Shell Miracle Music Man,” Amini Sese, Sangone’s (the giant sea turtle) prophet, and Ah So, the inappropriate acupuncturist. All these people represent people who are taking advantage of other people, most commonly people of the same race.
This aspect of the story reminded me of Patricia Grace’s short story “Sky People.” In that story Billy and his family took advantage of all the white vacationing people by stealing their homes and land while they were away in the off-season. The story was ridiculous, but it was meant to be so because it was a parody. Billy’s family did exactly what the first colonialist did to the Maori people—they unjustly took their land. In Grace’s outlandish and unfeasible short story, she is making a statement about what the Maori people shouldn’t do. Two wrongs do not make a right. Through her story, Grace wants New Zealanders to learn from their ancestors mistakes and not repeat them. Like the family in “Sky People,” the dottores which Oilei comes across people who Hau’ofa doesn’t want Pacific Islanders to imitate, even if some have done so in the past. In this way, the lesson in both Gracse and Hau’ofa’s is essentially the same.
Secondly, Hau’ofa’s story focuses primarily on the pain and adventure of Oilei, but as readers we may actually loose tract of the people who are really important to him. Even though Oilei does some horrible things to his wife, Makarita, she still comes back and cares for him. Same is true about Makarita’s mother, Mere. Also, Bulbul, Oilei’s longest and best friend, stops everything that he was working on and comes to the aid of the friend who had given him so much. Bulbul is not present for the beginning of the book, but we soon learn that he has been essential in Oilei’s life and career. In this aspect of Hau’ofa’s novel, he creates an underlying interpretation of “home,” which consists of the people who truly care for you. You must never forget the people helped you get this far.
In the first half of “Kisses in the Nederends,” it seems to me that Hau’ofa is saying two equally important things about “home.” First, people have to be true to themselves to make them and the community around them a better place. Secondly, we must remember the people which are important to us.
I’m going to paraphrase Christopher McCandless here: “Happiness is only real when shared.”