When men were men

In New Zealand, before 1970 men were men and women were grateful.

Pakeha New Zealand was barely 100 years old,  the blood of the pioneers persisting, pumping thick and strong. The land was still being tamed;  work needed sinew and muscle not fingers and pens. Apron strings were still heavily tied to the Mother Land but ultimately swiftly cast aside upon Mothers entrance into the Common Market.

It was a mans world.

Rugby, racing and beer. Sweat and toil. Men hunted, they provided, and so did women, either in the kitchen or in the bedroom.

New Zealand was and still is a land of contradictions. She was the first country in the world to give women the vote, but the first also to throw them the dish cloth and tea towel.  There was genuine affection toward Maori, but this manifested itself in condescension. New Zealanders were generous, yet unthinkingly stole land they had no right to steal. At will they bastardized and and mis-pronounced the beautiful local tongue.

Within all this hubbub though, a national identity slowly started to emerge. A strong independent stand alone culture. A rugged, ‘sort it out, she’ll be right’ attitude toward life.

Peter Cape was a  first generation Kiwi born to an English family and was the most unlikely minstrel of our early cultural emergence. Although through his music and cleverly crafted lyric he captured the essence of what it was like to be a kiwi man.

But what about the women you ask?

Well no need to worry about them, the sheila’s will be in the kitchen cutting the supper.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like Peter Cape’s folk music. I believe his life’s work  is seriously underrated; while musically simple, lyrically it’s clever, and historically accurate – painfully so. His body of work is of significant importance to NZ – so on that count give me Peter Cape over Lorde any day.

It’s nostalgic to  look back. But to appreciate it best you need to look back in with corrective lens of context not romance.

As for the man himself, Peter Cape was the perfect kiwi man. A complete and utter contradiction. Unusually for a singer he had a speech impediment which you can quite clearly hear in his vocals. He was Kiwi born to an English family. A man new to NZ but one who captured the essence of being a kiwi man perfectly. He was an ordained Anglican Priest, yet thought nothing of leaving his wife and children to follow the arts and crafts movement evolving in Nelson.

So what do I think of Peter Cape?

As a Musician I believe he was a talented man and I enjoy his music.

As  a recorder of history – he was absolutely brilliant with perfect insight into the psyche of the Kiwi Male.

As a bloke, well I think  he was probably a bit of a bastard.

But then again I think most men were back then.

It was all part of being a kiwi.

Kia Ora

PS: When I hear Peter’s music – I hear the song of my father’s life.


Race Relations – lets have a chat


Photo credit to Fairfax Media

On the 6th of February 1840 a treaty was signed between Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson (on behalf of Queen Victoria) and 40 Maori Chiefs (500 Chiefs signed by the end of the year). This treaty  was  ‘Te Tiriti o Waitangi’ – The Treaty of Waitangi.

It is New Zealand’s founding document and was meant to be a partnership between Māori and the British Crown. Although intended to create unity, different understandings of the treaty, and breaches of it, have caused conflict.

However, from the 1970s the general public gradually came to know more about the treaty, and efforts to honour the treaty and its principles expanded.While February the 6th is  celebrated as a National holiday it has always been a day of protest as well. A day where Maori can voice their frustrations and concerns over the Treaty and I love that.

Clearly in NZ we still have inequalities, clearly Maori sit on the wrong side of most social statistics – so it is good to be reminded of this. There is still work to do in NZ, so we can honour the principles of the Treaty.

  • The Kawanatanga Principle – The Principle of Government
  • The Rangatiratanga Principle – The Principle of Self Management
  • The Principle of Equality
  • The Principle of Cooperation
  • The Principle of Redress

This year the voice of protest was strong which affected traditional celebrations. Should we be worried about this? No!

This year has brought another opportunity for better dialogue between Maori, between Pakeha (NZ Europeans) and between each other to move the spirit of the Treaty forward.

I  adore the feature photograph of this post. To me it sums up the future of race relations in NZ. 175 years ago the Maori Warrior and the lad (perhaps a missionaries or soldiers son) may have been enemies. But here they are on a beautiful sunny day in February having a chat.It could be the lad is asking the warrior about his Moku (tattoo’s) or his Taiahi (his spear). It could be also that the Warrior is asking the lad about his knowledge of Waitangi or even telling him a beautiful Maori legend

But best of all, I like to think that these two are actually related. I think these days most Kiwi families have at least small blend of Maori and Pakeha – surely this is the best race relations can get and is the true lasting spirit of the Treaty!

Kia Ora Roly