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  • Mānava:The Biography of Living Objects
  • Cresantia Frances Koya Vaka‘Uta (bio)

A response to Ngarino Ellis, “Te Ao Hurihuri O Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho: The Evolving Worlds of Our Ancestral Treasures.” Biography 39.3 (Summer 2016): 438–60

In the belly of earth the fireThat birthed our peopleMelds red and black lavaInto the exoskeleton of our collective bodyBending the brown of her earth wombThe green of her leavesThe white of her eyes

It shapes the endless spiral that isSkyLandSeaAnd everything in betweenContracts and refracts light

The spiral is the storyOf our collective bodyA connectedHistory of past and futureIn a single thread of hair

Her continuum breathingBeating time and spaceThe one truthThat we are only ever one people [End Page 461]

This clanOur legacyWrapped in a cloak of protectionThick with yellow and blackOur story is sourced from burning embersAnd capturedIn the pulse of living objects

These impervious blood-linesSwim and flyLike winged fishThroughLight and formDark and spirit-linesSymbols that shift in markings

On our collective skinIn bone and clayWood and barkAll at once sacred and profane

Singing:These wordsAnd silencesPattern texture and textileWhere ManaInksSpiritEnergy-linesAcross time

Weaving our pain and lossOur tears and laughterInto ochre legends and stone metaphors

Smearing turmeric on our bodiesWe danceInto an unknown future behind usThe past lies ahead [End Page 462]

Our Art is the politic of choice forWe, who, are blessed to be custodiansWe, who, must forever hold Atua in our bellies

And so we mark our stories in our bloodAnd breathe our life into these objectsJust as our orators draw words and imagesFrom living trees and streamsThe women gatherTo bleed dyes and smoke mats

We learn to safeguard the earth

This is who we are

Our biography written in our art

Our agency a political consciousness

This is our story

Come Let us singSo our children may learnThe who and what, why and where of these living objects

Come Let us danceSo we may remember in our collective skinThe who and what, why and where of our being and becoming

Come Let us breatheInto the space that nurtures usSo we might fly with fish and birdsOn spirit wings of mulberry

Captured in the pulse of living objectsOur story isSourced from burning embersThick with yellow and blackWrapped in a cloak of protectionOur legacyThis clan [End Page 463]

We are one peopleThe truthBeats time and spaceHer continuum breathes

In a single thread of hairA connectedHistory of past and futureOur collective bodyThe spiral is the story

Contracting and refracting lightEverything in betweenSeaLandSkyShaping the endless spiral that is

The white of her eyesThe green of her leavesBending the brown of her earth wombInto the exoskeleton of our collective bodyMelding red and black lavaThat birthed our peoples

In the belly of earth there is fire

MānavaThe biography of living objects [End Page 464]

Cresantia Frances Koya Vaka‘Uta

Dr. Cresantia Frances Koya Vaka‘uta is Associate Dean of Research and International Studies at the Faculty of Arts, Law & Education at the University of the South Pacific in Suva. An art-activist working under the pseudonym 1angrynative, her work explores Pacific Island heritage and contemporary issues in the islands.



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pp. 461-464
Launched on MUSE
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