We have discussed the concept of colonization and the way in which different cultures have adapted to or not adapted to the changes and harsh realities of colonialism. We talked about how Okonkwo’s inability to adapt led to his death and therefore Achebe believes that one must adapt to live. We journeyed with the Maori people as their lands were taken from them forcefully despite their attempts to fight back. Wendt’s Sons for the Return Home describes a child who must adapt to a new culture and then readapt to his old culture. In Grace’s short story, “Ngati Kangaru”, a Maori family, that has adapted to the ways of the colonizers who took the Maori land, decide to take back the land that was stolen from them. The satirical tone that Grace gives the story reveals to the reader that the Maori family has become so integrated with another culture that they have lost their sense of culture and have become just like the colonizers they hate. This idea is contrasted with the other excerpt we read this week, Wendt’s Nuanua introduction, in which he praises and glorifies the Pacific groups that have managed to preserve their culture despite adaptation through art, language, politics, and most importantly literature.
If we connect Grace’s Potiki with her short story, we see things have come full circle. The crazy and unbelievable plot of the short story, in which the Maori family steals the luxury homes and gives them to returning Maori people without getting caught, is a mirror of the way in which the New Zealand company stole the land from the Maori people to begin with. It shows how unfair and ridiculous the taking of Maori land was in Potiki. However, in the same way, it creates a sense of loss, because Billy and his family are committing the same outlandish crime as the New Zealand company. The family uses the same words and phrases as the colonizers used, against them. Billy is inspired to create his “company” while reading a book which explains the tactics used by the New Zealand company. It is especially different from the way that the Tamihana family attempts to preserve and save their culture in Potiki. Grace seems to be saying that too much adaptation can be detrimental to a culture. If Billy and his family were truly trying to restore the Maori culture to their land, they would not have done it in the way that they did. They were not thinking about preserving culture, rather they were thinking about making money and scamming people. In this case the family has become so adapted that they have lost their love for their culture.
In Wendt’s piece we see a very opposite view on adaptation. He is bursting with pride that the Pacific people have preserved and saved their culture despite having to adapt when colonized. The book Nuanua was made for the purpose of spreading the culture and the literature of the Pacific people, to disprove stereotypes, and to prove that despite being adapted they still treasure and hold their cultural values to a high standard. Sons for the Return Home evokes the idea that adaptation is a good thing but one must find a way to compromise and keep ones original culture and tradition alive. It is interesting to see these two different opinions on adaptation and how they fit in to our course as a whole.
In our study of homelands, we have seen forced adaptation, refusal to adapt, and welcome adaptation. In our world today, we see adaptation as a necessary part of life. When we move somewhere new or make new friends etc, we must find that common ground where our new environment and our old environment coexist in harmony. When I lived in Denmark, I felt very comfortable, like I belonged. It took some time to figure things out and find a rhythm, but once I did, I felt at home. That does not mean that I lost my American nature. It meant that I found a way to exist comfortably in a new culture without losing the old one.