I found this graphic novel yesterday at Shirley Library quite by accident. It’s called Aotearoa Whispers, The Awakening. I think it’s awesome, so decided to blog it as maybe other people might enjoy it too. The story is set in Christchurch. Be warned there were a couple of illustrations of the Cathedral, the Chalice and the chess set from the square – this gave me a bit of an unexpected whiplash of nostalgia ( a reaction I wasn’t expecting from a graphic novel) and the author Gonzalo Navarro wrote his foreword in the city in February 2011, in the aftermath of the earthquakes.
The Awakening tells the story of of Kahi Moana, a young teenager who has a potentially life-changing exchange with his grandmother after tripping over his own shoelace.
The conversation that ensues with his kuia introduces the reader to Te Rauparaha, touches on aspects of local history (it mentions the naming and history of Cathedral Square), the battles at Kaiapoi Pa, Ōnawe and Akaroa before moving on to share a retelling of the traditional kōrero of Māui and Mahuika from the perspective of the author. Ultimately the conversation with his Nan impacts on his perspective of how he sees the world and views his own identity.
I loved the style of the art work and the fact that I could read the story in Te Reo (the translation has been provided by Charisma Rangipunga) or English. The fact that the story was set locally and that the storyline included events and happenings that occurred in our area. It made me feel like I had an instant connection with the story and the characters. I also liked the fact that it was sharing story in a graphic novel type format, I haven’t come across many New Zealand stories told in this way.
If you try this one and like it, you might also like to have a look at Ngārimu Te Tohu Toa (Te Reo) which tells the story of Te Moana nui a Kiwa Ngarimu VC or Victory at Point 209 if you want to read the English version. Both of these were written by Andrew Burdan who has also written Hautipua rererangi (Te Reo) or Born to Fly (English version) which tells the story of NZRAF Flying Officer Porokoru Patapu (John) Pohe of Ngati Rangi,who served 22 missions in his first tour of duty during the Second World War. I have added both of these to my for later shelf.
As an aside, If you do read Aotearoa Whispers and it whets your appetite in terms of learning a little more about local history then you might like to check out our website Tī Kōuka Whenua. This resource is a great source of local history and Ngāi Tahu information- and if you’re interested you can read more about the battles mentioned in Aotearoa Whispers, the history of Kaiapoi and the battle at Ōnawe Pa as well.