IKA Issue 4, edited by Anne Kennedy.
Auckland: Manukau Institute of Technology (2016).
Reviewed by Mary Cresswell.
IKA is the annual literature and arts journal of the Faculty of Creative Arts of the Manukau Institute of Technology. It publishes writers and artists from South Auckland, from Aotearoa, from the Pacific and beyond. This issue is edited by Auckland poet Anne Kennedy, working with an MIT art, design and editorial team.
For starters, the design of Ika 4 is wonderful. It’s generously printed on attractive paper. The cover and spine use laid-back runes by Samantha Sailiata, with an inside page of her runes in two styles. That page ends up with the word ‘belonging’ – and probably includes words I, the reader, don’t recognise because of my own limited perspective. (Point taken.)
There are stories, poems and photos representing the Pacific: Guam, Hawaiʽi, Samoa, Aotearoa, the Kermadec Trench – the sea, always the sea and the people of the sea. Here is Manisha Anjali’s celebration:
aunty of rainwater and smoke
dance on my immigrant doorstep
sing sing on Onehunga nights of rainwater and smoke
sing sing yr gospel for sky husband (“Aunty of Rainwater and Smoke”, p 37).
There is a dark side as well. These are worlds of drugs (Kiri Piahana-Wong’s poem “Lithium Girl Can’t Parallel Park”), faceless women and barbed wire (Ngahuia Harrison’s photos), and mad, train-wreck lives. N.R. Parata-Hellyer’s story “Babysitting” is tragic farce; other stories focus on impossibly difficult facets of race and racial identity, not in the abstract but first-hand, down and dirty.
Rahera Walter interviews Albert Wendt, putting six questions to him, all dealing with him as a Pacific citizen, a Pacific writer, and his place in the stream of Pacific literature. He lives in Aotearoa-Samoa or Samoa-Aotearoa, he says, and his words could be those of anyone who inhabits more than one country:
“So you see both Samoa and New Zealand have been central to my life: in my thinking, feeling, seeing, and being; they are one place, a fusion. When I’m living in Aotearoa that weighs more in my being than Samoa. And vice versa.
“And of course what I call Samoa-Aotearoa/Aotearoa-Samoa is a creation of my own seventy-five years of history, being, and becoming. I carry it in my head, heart, mind and imagination, and it continues to become as I continue to breathe.” (pp 64-65)
Doug Poole dedicates “The light I had hoped” to his grandmother, ending with:
Hibiscus trumpet blooms wailing old stories true, some
superstititions, some dreams weaving too, of the old people, Upolu,
Tula’ele our village. We know you have gone home
at sunset you run from tree to tree
the breadfruit, mango, paw-paw of
your mother’s garden, stealing fruit (pp 103-104).
Ria Masae’s “Gripping Sand” and “Vinyl Sundays” keep Samoa alive beneath her feet and her grandmother alive in her memories. (This book as a whole presents a vivid bunch of both unattractive and attractive family members, including grandmothers, who tend to be under-represented in song and story.) Craig Santos Perez struggles to keep the Chamorro diaspora alive and in front of not only American colonizers but other Micronesians:
I never tasted another mango from grandma’s tree
because that year my family migrated to California.
Today, nearly 20,000 Micronesians from COFA
nations have settled on Guam.
Today, nearly 75,000 Chamorros
have migrated off-island. (p 35).
Twenty-odd years ago, Epeli Hau’ofa turned on its head the colonial picture of the Pacific as bitsy islands in a too-big sea – rather, he says, we live in a sea of islands and we are the sea. This collection reflects the same thought: what looks from a distance like irreconcilable variety, when you look close, when you actually live in it, is an extraordinary unity of spirit and of perspective.
These poems, photos and essays are a readable and fascinating book. If you weren’t able to get a copy of it when it came out in May 2016, try again. It’s worth the effort.
 Distribution for this issue has been in some disarray since its launch in May 2016. As at end 2016, it can be purchased direct from MIT (email Annabel.Gane@manukau.ac.nz ) or from Unity Books (Auckland and Wellington) or VicBooks – and only from these sources.
Mary Cresswell is from Los Angeles and lives on the Kapiti Coast. Fish Stories, a collection of ghazals and glosas, was published by Canterbury University Press in 2015.
First published takahe 89