The kūmara does not tell you how sweet it is

From ‘Māori Boy: a memoir of childhood’, by Witi Ihimaera. The flow of the language, the proverbs, and the phrasings all make me feel quite homesick.

‘It was they who taught me to care, to look after people, to be unselfish, to give more than you take, to look after the kūmara, the royal children who will take the Māori into the future, and to try to stop them from being bruised.

‘And always to have aroha.’

I don’t know why my father’s two simple tellings of storing the kūmara and of purifying the river water with his Pā affected me so much. In the first instance, I think I tried to apply them to my own work, because was writing so different to storing kūmara? I began to think of my work as kūmara, which I could offer to people to enjoy; Māori say that the kūmara does not tell you how sweet it is until you taste it, and I wanted it to be sweet. Second, sometimes I think of the rewriting process as a purifying process, assing a layer of shingle at the bottom to filter out the impurities. Man oh man, my father’s Pā would probably reprimand me for the heaps of shingle I have had to sometimes use to ensure that the words come out clear as the water of the Waipaoa River.  p. 75

kūmara–sweet potato





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