Book cover for ransack by essa may ranapiri

essa may ranapiri
ransack
(VUP, 2019)

Response by Hana Pera Aoake

Buy from Victoria University Press

Wailing Waiata — Takataapui marronage, ways of being, and essa may ranapiri's ransack

(all page references are to ransack unless otherwise specified)

ONE

To (un)make and (re) make the body and the spaces in which the body exists demands the weaving of the skin like putting a pen to paper. Bodies tell stories, hide secrets, excrete from orifices concealed and revealed and categorized biologically, describe horrors, reveal shame, exert grief and hope simultaneously and sharpen gradually into a space for healing like a stone being smoothed by the tides. Bodies survive across time and space. The skin is our biggest organ and our bodies are made mostly of water, the tiniest molecules, spores and bacteria, which bubbled for thousands of years and eventually formed our skin, bones, teeth and limbs.

the tohoraa acts as guide (16)

We are connected to all things. The wairua of everything around us. The queering and indigenisation of the spaces around us, through us. As Maaori when we cite our pepeha we introduce ourselves as awa/moana, maunga and as our tuupuna, calling to biological matter, Papatuuaanuku and Ranginui. Our genealogical narratives tie us physically, spiritually and culturally to this whenua. It can never be described as separate, we are entwined.

wailing waiata (16)

The space where indigenous knowledge comes into being. Becoming fuel for the roots (61). Liminal spaces that are shimmering in dance, shimmering in the sun, on the waves of water, in the forest (Léuli Eshrāghi). Takataapui. The nonbinary individual is biologically nonbinary (ranapiri, 13). There was no hierarchy of the sexes in the labour we performed or even in our language, as both the personal pronouns (ia) and the possessive personal pronouns (tana/ tona) are gender-neutral (Annie Mikaere). Our kinships were plural; we existed (and still exist) in multiple sexualities and performed various ceremonial practices and visual expressions. We existed and resisted the coming of the light of evangelical missionaries and searched for the shimmering (Eshrāghi).

spraying notes (16)

It's worth reiterating that the perpetuation of the subordinate position of Maaori women, gender diverse bodies and children through crown endorsed assimilationist policies was never a part of tikanga Maaori. The near destruction of our tuupuna and ways of life was met with a replacement of a set of values and philosophies founded on white male supremacy. Ki te kahore he whakakitenga ka ngaro te iwi1. Social behaviour seems to be trapped in an inescapable pattern of interaction. The imprisoned nuclear Victorian era family dynamic really has infested all of our social relations and stunted the dynamic potentia of our bodies to exist as many selves, but we are more aloof than they realise (Paul B. Preciado, Testo Junkie, 385). What if our bodies truly held a Spinozian potentia of politicization? It’s interesting that Foucault’s description of biopolitics, the idea that all living (therefore mortal) bodies are the central object of all politics and that there are no politics that are not body politics, seems to speak in communion with Hannah Arendt’s “rise of the social.” Arendt focused on the notion of the Greek Polis—as in bodies having agency within political life. Both described the conditions in which our bodies are subject to a form of social domination, that could only obtain meaningful sovereignty through participation in political and thereby social life. But our bodies, as Maaori are instinctively politicized, we are filled with potentia, but it’s called our wairua and whakapapa, that connects us to everything human and nonhuman. Maaori are not politicized because of colonisation, but because in our pre-colonial societies everything was decided collectively, our whole society was collective and embedded within everything living and nonliving. To be Maaori is to be made of different histories, making our bodies intrinsically political.

to the hook in the sky (16)

I’m always surprised that Virginia Woolfe’s voice clings on as heavy as steel, framed always as a white feminist hero - an ardent critic of this patriarchal victorian organisation of bodies and space. Her critique lacks imagination for she simply starts to view society as both everything and nothing. How vacuous this may in some ways seem, but she did rightfully ascertain that society “...is the most powerful concoction in the world and society has no existence whatsoever.” (Orlando, OUP 1992: 172) Perhaps her framing of society having no existence acts as a precursor to late-twentieth-century consumer culture being framed as a world in which simulations or imitations of reality have become more real than reality itself, a condition Jean Baudrillard describes as the “hyper-real.” The hyper-real is a space in which we are surrounded by representations or imitations of things that really exist, toward a state in which our lives are filled with simulations, objects that look as if they represent something else but have really created the reality they seem to refer to. We are slipping into the matrix except there is no distinction between being in the matrix and being in the simulation. I guess Virginia was interested in self design and probably would’ve been a digital nomad, besides she saw much more potentiality in her body having a capacity to design a room of one’s own. I mean New Zealand is really far away from ye olde England. How nice to never be concerned with the ransacking and privatisation of papatuuaanuku’s body, a body that is also our body, both mine and essa’s.

as Tawhirimaatea spits (16)

To exist in a post fordist necropolitical clusterfuck world we are tasked with the challenge of willing political action to fabricate a body, to put it to work, to define its modes of production and reproduction, to foreshadow the modes of discourse by which that body is fastened to a fiction of self until that body can grasp up for air and scream, ko au te whenua, te whenua ko au.

a gust to forward taangata (16)

 

TWO

We clamour for
(breath)                 Opac-ity
Opacity is an unknowability and, hence, a poetics
Glissant defines opacity as an alterity that is unquantifiable, (Poetics of Relation, 189)
a diversity that exceeds categories of identifiable difference.
“a past i ransack” (Assotto Saint, Spells of a Voodoo Doll, 21)
The right to opacity
We clamour for
(breath)                 hybrid-ity
The signifiers follow close behind/ahead (ranapiri, 23)
To be many
[umbilical replacing yolk sack] (ranapiri, 20)
POTESTAS
A machine for living

To                         re-make                         space
(breath)
The queering of architecture
a resistance to architecture as a tool of
oppression
(breath)
a re-appropriation of space as a tool of transformation
(breath)
a transformative potential to be unleashed
(breath)
a process to (re)create your body’s cells into many selves
(breath)
a right to opacity, hybridity and to always be (re)imagining space

 

THREE

Ransack is a transitive verb, a transitive verb is one that only makes sense if it exerts its action on an object. For instance, They ransacked the house. Ransack’s word etymology derives from Old Norse (Middle English) “rannsaka”. With the “rann” in rannsaka meaning “house” and the second half of the word is related to an Old English word, “secan”, meaning “to seek”

Gentle rocking waves got us here. We never got seasick or maybe we did, but eventually we must have got over it. We both came on the Tainui waka led by our tuupuna, Chief Hoturoa following a tohoraa. We exist in a place where time constantly overlaps.

in the world and into the world of tubes
ride the machine
incubate in plastic
and drench in yellow light
the air is whole new in-the-world
and out of the old world
recognise voices (28)

All time is fractal Orlando. It’s non linear. It always was. At least you are white…. You drove yourself to linen (90), after being in Elizabethan pearls. I mean Virginia did paint her face black and I know it’s ahistorical to bring it up, but it makes you think. I mean the idea of private property was always natural to you. You were always a poet, but I always sensed that money was never an issue. I guess money and language mirror one another in that they share something: they are nothing, but they move everything. Both hold the power of persuading human beings to act, to work and to transform physical and immaterial things. I mean there is always a question of money... Labour has become almost immaterial you probably would’ve guessed or perhaps not. I can’t imagine you in the same spheres of precarious work as me. Social time has been completely transformed into a sprawl of light, tiny compatible fragments meaning your body has become so depersonalised that you are always on and always exhausted and always working. (Franco ‘bifo’ Berardi, The Uprising: on poetry and finance, 143)

Orlando, we exist and are remade across thousands of years in the past, present and future not simply three hundred years.

 

FOUR

Tumbling through the cunt of Elisabeth I, kissing boys and kissing girls, I lock myself inside my house with 365 rooms and fifty-two staircases. All I do is write, until I am so humiliated that I burn all my poems except one, The Oak Tree. “The dress of flesh grows thicker.” (ranapiri, 26) From 1588-1928 I aged only thirty-six years and existed embodying different forms. I am a lover as legendary as Kahungunu, who was born in Kaitaaia and eventually settled on the Maahia peninsula.

Blood, bile, mucus membrane, foam, gushing.

Dear Orlando, all these different selves construct my body, this body. “My paleness has scared me.” (91) I pull a puakana “More whitecap than whitewash.” (14) I wanted to call the real me, but I realised that I’m a swarm of many, perhaps a hivemind or perhaps all my cells are constantly splitting and my bones are grinding into dust ... “But aren’t we all corpses?” (61) My many selves are bodies that are corroding and combobulating for “...I have no willing ship to sail me across the ocean no way to escape my old body. But I have never wanted to be here regardless of where I am.” (29)

I’m still spitting out seeds Orlando but at least they are starting to grow. (90) As I grow my body sprouts new selves, constantly, picking and pulling through memories, and lessons across time and space.

Floating in the Pacific, once more aware of the ocean as a body, as an interconnected web. The idea of borders, sites of brutal colonial contestation, the renaming of places, the blood in the sea, the corpses pilling up in the sea, labour = death, presbyterians vomiting bile into the rough waves hitting the coast of Waikouaiti and the entrepreneurial Moby Dick style killing of tohoraa begins all across Otago. The Pacific is as expansive as all the ocean, never forget that we are 70% water and that perhaps going swimming is like being back inside your mother’s womb. The Pacific is not a series of islands in a body of water, it is all one body. The whole notion of an island is a colonial illusion, a complete construct.

material is what I am to want
and am to be
unlid my liquid (80)

I SIT UNDER AN OAK TREE BARELY AN ADULT
A MIDDLE AGED POEM CLIMBS TO THE TREE TO BURY IT
THE POEM IS THE RECORD OF MY INTERNAL LIFE

Orlando the novel finishes at midnight... Why? Cinderella? I’m not impressed by you Orlando, because it’s not as though you ever had to transcend class, as well as find ways to navigate both revealing and concealing different parts of yourself. I don’t think you ever had to think about your physical safety, besides maybe when you fucked over Lizzie the “virgin queen”. I do however identify with your proclivity to shame, anxiety and protectiveness over your words, but I’m not exactly blown away by a title like “The Oak Tree”.

Orlando, I hate feeling wedded to these hypercomplex digital networks of worms and I read and re-read and read and re-read and read and re-read and I over-promised and struggled Orlando, but this is all I have. I cried many times and lived through some of these words and perhaps I didn’t at all and the scattering of the signified/signifier is a trap and I felt it’s too easy to project myself on to your words using more words and forget all analysis, but it flusters to the side like clotted cream left out in the sun. “This lived textuality is so excessive it threatens the very order of the system.” (Dodie Bellamy, Academonia, 47)

The amniotic fluid caresses down my thighs drooling away from my sex. “Like a plant in a pot next to a heater.” (78) In a swimming pool I imagine floating in the sap which is coursing through my mother’s veins, dripping from her nose and ears and streaming down her cheekbones... “But aren’t we all corpses?” (61) I sometimes think I would choose the fate of Sisyphus pushing a rock to the top of a mountain for eternity than exist in this subject-body, technoliving system.

 

FIVE

On the day I learn of the shooting in Orlando, Florida at Pulse nightclub I remember weeping in the rain and staring out at the Manuka trees and watching pīwakawaka.

essa, I know what you wrote but I don’t think any pīwakawaka would ever laugh at you, they are too busy swimming in the sky and speaking to our dead.

My tongue is a heavy lump of knots, essa, I’m too suspicious and carry too much disappointment.

The maggots form a chorus (17) eating my brains splattered like roots, like worms, like Medusa, but the red clay of papaptuuaanuku sleeps below me and perhaps Taane didn’t make the first woman but rather he made just a body.

essa, I really do
... “feel your breath in the
soft gaps” (76)
... your words remind me
to breathe
And remember that bodies and culture are never
... s t a t i c

 

 

My pen is shattered I have no more paper (93)

 

 

1 This was a common whakatauki by my tuupuna, Kingi Tawhiao Potatau te Wherowhero meaning ‘Without foresight or vision the people will be lost’. It is meant to signify both the urgency and importance of unification and strong Maaori leadership.

 

 

Hana Pera Aoake (Ngaati Mahuta, Tainui/Waikato, Ngaati Raukawa) is an artist, writer and editor based in Waikouaiti on stolen Kai Tahu land. They are studying at Maumaus escola des artes, co-edit Kei te pai press and Tupuranga journal and co-host a podcast, KISS ME THRU THE PHONE with Mya Cole (iTaukei). They love eating kaimoana and defacing colonial property.