NEW BOOK: The Parihaka Album: Lest We Forget

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The Parihaka Album: Lest We Forget byRachel Buchanan
Huia Publishers, Jan 2010 RRP $45

The Parihaka Album is an open book of memories, of revelations, of personal belonging. The author, Rachel Buchanan, starts the story of Parihaka as a wide eyed visitor, passing through the historic location as a student who, over time, connects the history of the site with the understanding of herself.

Parihaka AlbumMany of us learn the stories of Aotearoa from sitting in wharenui, listening to the korero of our old people, looking over photos and joining in with waiata that link to past events. The Parihaka Album sticks to this hands-on approach as we learn more about the pain of the colonial experience through the interpretation of waiata, the content and context of photos, the whakapapa of the author to the intimacy of the peaceful settlement. It is this personal account that makes the Parihaka Album a must have book for any collection.

I made the mistake of starting the book thinking I knew much about Parihaka. The writing style seems to drift from the scant bits of information learned at school to the oft-quoted song of Tim Finn Parihaka. Slowly, we meet Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, begin to understand why many whanau and hapu were attracted to Parihaka and build up emotion when the colonial raids forever change the landscape and the cultural essence of the people. Midway through the book, the reader feels at one with the author, identifying with the emotions of the time and making that painful journey alongside those who suffered, endured and survived.

It is at the end that, possibly as intended by Rachel, that we find ourselves linked to the story of Parihaka, seeing ourselves in the pages that record her history. It is a revelation to find a new, fresh approach Parihaka and to see that this korero comes from one of the villages own. The stand-out chapters for me are Chapter 6 Pictures and Chapter 9 The Dementia Wing, as they explain a traumatised past like never before. We love the Parihaka Album, appreciate that Huia Publishers have made such an invaluable book available, commend Rachel for sharing her Album with us and send heartfelt best wishes to Parihaka the people, the place and the passion.

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