Epeli Hau’ofa’s blend of humor and social commentary throughout Kisses in the Nederlands, is a refreshing and poignant take on the question of homelands. Our literary journeys through the southeastern pacific have given us unique and deep perspective on what it means to be a pacific islander. Both Grace and Wendt have given us contrasting, yet related depictions of the homelands of this fascinating group of people. Hau’ofa has given us a much different depiction.
Using the lens cultivated by Grace and Wendt makes it possible for us to look on Hau’ofa and laugh, while simultaneously understanding the satirical undertones of the work. The instances of humor throughout are numberless, but one scene in particular evidences the satirical undertones of the work. Chapter two depicts a conference between traditional practitioners of “primitive” medicine and western blowhards who solely prescribe to the wonders of modern medicine.
Coordinated by national health organizations and the beloved prime minister of Tipota, who sees the value in both forms of medicine, the event assumes the visage of being a cooperative venture, where practitioners from both sides will engage in discussions and exchange ideas for making the world a healthier place. Ultimately Hau’ofa shows this to be untrue, as most, if not all, modern practitioners see it as an opportunity to educate the primitive witch doctors on the magic of modern medicine.
There is clearly a disconnect between what the conference was intended to accomplish (or rather what it would like to appear to intend to accomplish) and its results. Hau’ofa’s s. Hau’ofa does an excellent job of exposing the condescension on the part of modernists, “It was good therefore to know that the poor were looking after the poor,” (29). These kind of underhanded comments let the reader into Hau’ofa’s satirical technique.
What does this tell us about homelands? Hau’ofa’s satire shows the Pacific Islander’s struggle with western modernization. This specific homeland of Tipota is being dredged through constant colonization, so much so that it is leading to the deterioration of any semblances of native culture that are left. The injection of humor is done for sport, and adds a light-hearted dimension to a much graver subject matter.