Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Stories Are the Centre: The Place of Fiction in Contemporary Understandings and Expressions of Indigeneity. Part 1, Critical Component

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posted on 2022-07-27, 22:37 authored by Makereti, Tina

Fiction written by indigenous people is an important tool for the reclamation of histories and identities, and for the imagining of alternative possibilities. Baby No- Eyes by Patricia Grace and Benang by Kim Scott are novels that address historical and contemporary experiences from indigenous points of view and therefore call into question previously known and accepted histories. By presenting alternative content and allowing for indigenous views and voices, these texts unearth discontinuities, anomalies and multiple possibilities – ultimately creating space for the authors to open up previously constricted or single-sided views of history and identity. These texts operate like historiographic metafiction, but go further than Linda Hutcheon’s Poetics of Postmodernism. Each novel culminates in new forms of creativity, signalling evolution beyond the position of ‘talking back’ and beyond reacting to the past in a colonial / postcolonial loop. In these novels, the gap left by postmodern deconstruction is filled by uniquely and fiercely indigenous (Māori, Nyoongar) contemporary solutions. Invariably these solutions contain some reclamation of traditional values, but the presence of new forms of creativity and marban/matakite abilities in Baby No Eyes and Benang in particular, suggest that contemporary solutions lie in going further and creating new understandings and ways of being. The creative component of this thesis is a novel, Rēkohu Story, which consists of three intertwined narratives: a young woman of Moriori, Māori and Pākehā descent seeks her family’s origins; a Moriori slave and his Ngāti Mutunga mistress run away together in 1882; the spirit of a man who died during the invasion of the Chatham Islands (Rēkohu) in 1835 watches over his descendants. The impetus for this novel was the author’s own mixed cultural heritage and concern that erroneous versions of the history of Rēkohu still persist. Both the critical and creative components assert that fiction can deepen understandings and expressions of history and Indigeneity.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Creative Writing

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Alternative Description

Public access file is the critical component only.

Victoria University of Wellington School

International Institute of Modern Letters


Manhire, Bill; Te Punga Somerville, Alice