Monday, January 26, 2009

Religion and community

Tekoa Smith
First Signifiers
Signifier Analysis

Through stories of Tiko natives and the way they live, with the help of satire and humor, Epeli Hau’ofa illustrates the distinctive geography and human characteristics that may only take place in the small island in the South Pacific Ocean. In “Tales of the Tikongs” Hau’ofa presents a different character and situation with each story however the characters are wittingly related. With the use of satire Hau’ofa actually sets up caricatures of Tiko natives to embellish on the idea of how unique a people Tikongs are. “Thus the Lord works six days and rests on the Seventh, Tiko rests six days and works on the Seventh [Hau’ofa, Tales 1]”.
As the reader we are invited into this part of the world and introduced to the land with stories of young men coming of age as well as aged men working to become better off men through education, business, agriculture and religion. Many of the tales are about people on the progression of something great but with uninvited help from advisors from countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain. The people are reluctant for the push of development of their country because they believe Tiko is perfect the way it is, the way God intended it to be. “Tiko can’t be developed, unless the ancient gods are killed.” [Hau’ofa, Tales 18]. Tikongs rely on their faith to guide them through their day to day. And the Tikong’s faith complimented by their ideology of imperil rejection allows them to follow the teachings of the Bible but make them their own. Hau’ofa’s tales have the quality of fables and Bible stories spruced with laugh out loud humor. The Tikongs are very devout people and religion, specifically Christianity is mentioned in almost every tale and is often the theme around most. Such as when Ti, a 77 year old man who uses a page out of the Bible to roll a cigarette is haunted by Biblical spirits Joshua and Moses until he commits the same sin twice, suggesting that a sin can only be cancelled by an equal and opposite sin. [Hau’ofa, Tales 35-42].
Hau’ofa uses humor to bring attention to the way the indigenous of Tiko are treated by outsiders. “Speechless, impotent and utterly indignant [Hau’ofa, Tales 15].” This type of belittling in “Tales” as well as in Hau’ofa’s essay, “Our Sea of Islands” reminds me of the American Slave trade and the advancement of Civil Rights in the 1960s. In “Our Sea of Islands” Hau’ofa explains that the “derogatory and belittling view of indigenous cultures are traceable to the early years of interactions with Europeans. [Hau’ofa, Our 28], just as when slave trade was common in America. Men and women from African decent were made to feel inferior to Europeans and American Caucasians. This was done by language such as “boy” when referring to African men and the all too controversial word Nigger to determine anyone of color. In America Europeans used the exploitation of Africans to help develop the country but did not put much effort into developing African-Americans as American people.
African’s were made how to speak, how to behave and most importantly how to build the country into majority it is today. Europeans also taught African’s religion, Christianity, which they used to their advantage and like the Tikongs, incorporated their own beliefs. Religion was and still is a major part of African-American lifestyle. From the production of the AME church to congregations being the center of most African-American communities. Although at current I am not active in religion I grew up in a church driven household and know very much about the Baptist faith. What I learned mostly is that religion is a thing that brings people together. It connects potential total strangers and brings them closer to family. When you share a particular strong religious view with another person a connection can often be made. To African-Americans that connection reaches deep back to the roots of religion. Run-away slaves used biblical hymns to help guide their way through the Underground Railroad. Because many slaves were illiterate the teachings of the bible were passed through spoken word and storytelling without any tangible resources. Such as with the Tikongs who all follow the same similar beliefs of their faith it is there understood difference that help them to stay connected to their roots.

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