Mana Tuturu: Maori treasures and intellectual property rights.
Barry Barclay (Pakeha and Ngati Apa) is an eminent Aotearoa New Zealand activist and writer, as well as a director of several lyrical films including Ngati (1987) and Tangata Whenua (1974). His book, Mana Tuturu, seeks to examine the myriad issues and complexities that arise when indigenous peoples' treasures find themselves subjected to the imperatives of the commercial world. At the start of the book, Barclay wastes no time pointing out how he hopes readers will approach Mana Tuturu: as a hui or public forum, where ideas are debated, people listen, images are shown, and plans proposed. Given the complex nature of the various topics he covers, Barclay has gone against his usual filmmaking guidelines;
instead of attempting to force a linear narrative and a clear through-line from his material, he has chosen to be 'like the kea, seeking out bright objects of fact or expression whenever I found them' (p.vii). As a result his book is both wide-ranging and fascinating, a structural and cerebral challenge to the reader, and seeks to show how '... law (and art) may be much closer to the very heart of the community than we often appreciate (p.3).
His topics, arrayed under the general rubric of indigenous intellectual property rights, include imagining what the arrival of Captain Cook to the shores of Aotearoa (New Zealand) might have looked like had there been cameras on hand to record the event. He then goes on to tackle the commercial manufacture and patenting of seed genetics and life forms, the current status of specific indigenous communities and their cultural goods, the protocols of archiving indigenous images, and the intricacies of various sources of law, as well as addressing the weight and importance of different cultures' 'own stories' (as Barclay refers to them). Perhaps most importantly, Barclay shows how important it is that Maori and other indigenous groups are able to 'speak of their own-story for themselves, rather than having to sit on the sidelines watching others do it for them' (p.166). In Mana Tuturu, Barclay sets himself the formidable task of arguing that this control--this dominion over indigenous peoples' own lands (and stories and bodies and images and so forth)--should continue long after the project is completed, the film shot, the person passed away, and that it should be done in a manner both fitting to, and respectful of, the indigenous group in question. 'Without providing a context,' Barclay argues, 'the moving image is unreliable': by putting tikanga or cultural protocol in place to respect images and other cultural products, Aotoearoa New Zealanders (and others) can provide that support structure far into the future (p. 16). To conclude Mana Tuturu, Barclay quotes Kelly Haitana, a student who attended one of his 2003 university film lectures: 'Tikanga is designed to protect and care for those things that can not speak for themselves. As filmmakers it is our responsibility to care for nga tika that fall within the domain of film making. It should be second nature if we make it so' (p.266).
If there is a stumbling block with Mana Tuturu, I can see only that perhaps Barclay's structure could be seen as too wide-ranging for some readers. I personally feel that the book requires this kind of freedom to address such ongoing and difficult issues; it is the only way Barclay can even begin to do justice to what are, after all, unanswerable questions. I predict this book will become a classic.
University of Otago
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2007|
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