Moving stories in every way really, and what an apt title for a session on migration. Not only about moving countries but about being moved by the stories of dislocation and loss.
Moving Stories was chaired by Hana O’Reagan who did a great job in welcoming us to the occasion, setting the scene and getting a Friday morning audience into the groove. I could have listened to her more.
The first speaker was Te Maire Tau, a historian of Ngai Tahu descent. He spoke mainly about the Englishman, Hugh Carrington whose manuscripts he used to write his book Ngai Tahu: A migration History. I wish that I had read the book first, because I felt somewhat removed from what he was discussing, and wished for longer than the 10 minutes that he had been allocated. I’m sure he had more to tell.
The highlight of the session for me was poet Karlo Mila. She had a lovely presence, with a wonderful voice that takes you to far flung places and then back to the present. New Zealander by birth with a Tongan father and Palangi mother she talked of the pull of Tonga. She also talked of the fact that she looks Maori, learnt Te Reo and got to be in the first row of the the Kapa Haka group, and how hard it was for her as a teenager to realise that she wasn’t Maori, that she belonged elsewhere.
I would describe Arnold Zable as a collector of stories, a good listener, and ear for language. I wondered about the affect on children of refugees, or who have parents who have been through war. I remember growing up with my mothers stories of being in the Blitz, I felt the fear and relived the terror with her. Hearing the stories of his parents leaving Poland and losing all of their family must have had a huge impact, and he writes of this so eloquently.
I’m wondering if this session will turn out to be a highlight for me? It certainly showed what a difference a great chair makes to the occasion, and Hana O’Reagan really should be congratulated for doing such a great job.