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Barclay on Protection of Maori Treasures


Barry Barclay on Protection of Maori Treasures in the Commercial World

Arts Foundation Laureate Barry Barclay (Ngati Apa; Pakeha) brings his lifetime of experience making films on Indigenous subjects to his latest project, a book offering solutions to the complex and difficult problems that arise when the treasures of Indigenous peoples, especially Maori, enter a commercial world which seeks to reproduce and disseminate them.

In Mana Tuturu: Maori Treasures and Intellectual Property Rights (Auckland University Press), he says, ‘I believe — passionately, as it happens — that it is possible to share with other peoples our own works and be given opportunities to enjoy their works in return. We cannot afford to be light-headed about it though, for experience teaches us that, when moving as artists into the Indigenous world, we may unwittingly be the occasion of significant hurt. With a little respect and understanding, we can avoid that.’

As an artist, Barry says, ‘my heart goes out to all those practitioners, Maori and non-Maori, who are working or wish to work in the Maori area.’

‘My heart is also, of course, with Maori up and down the country who are the holders of the treasures of the past — the caretakers, protectors, guides, supporters, the ones with the knowledge — and in particular with all those amongst them who have special responsibilities under tikanga on how the treasures of the past are to be protected, shared and passed down in good shape, physically and spiritually, to the coming generations.’

It is more or less inevitable perhaps that tikanga responsibilities will be onerous in a modern age. With so many opinions flying about, he asks, ‘who do people turn to for guidance?’

‘It is my suggestion that we look, not to modern law (copyright, intellectual property rights law) nor to some yet-to-be-born hybrid law (Indigenous intellectual property rights law) but to our own law, which is both ancient and modern — tikanga. This is not only the culturally sound way to go, I believe: it is the only sound way to go legally as well.’

Shaping Mana Tuturu as a hui, Barry has set out his discussion in five parts:

Part One (Before the Beginning) is an introduction, a key-note address to get things going. (Yes, he says, you can have a keynote address at hui.) Prince Charles is attending a premiere of an English documentary which contains archival footage of Maori; there is a protest outside the cinema.

Part Two (The Black Penny) as a first major session of a hui. Things get serious here. The topic is Indigenous rights over native flora and fauna — Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights, if you like, although during the discussion he has done his best to crush any flutter of life out of that toxic phrase. To a degree this is a specialist session and some will may head straight for it and go no further. Others may skip it. He hopes, though, that most readers will be present at this part of the hui, for here he attempts to show something about what being Indigenous might mean — the plants are carried away; the animals are made lame; the Invader, with his dollar, is grinning from ear to ear.

There's a single sharp sonic crack that reverberates through Part Three of this book (My Two Pages) and likely each of the other Parts as well. This extended instant has to do with the knowing adoption of the Maori phrase mana tuturu, when the phrase was introduced into a film archive deposit agreement. What kind of guardianship might Maori be seeking over their stored image treasures? The niggle to address that single question — calmly and with respect to all — has driven much of the writing of this book. So while Part Three can also be seen as an essay for specialists (archivists this time) it goes right to the nitty-gritty, and he hopes will appeal to readers of any background.

Part Four (Nga Taniwha) and Part Five (Children's Shoes in Linoleum Halls) are concerned with arts and law, not just law with the big ‘L’, but with law seated amongst us as one of us, whatever culture we are from.

Barry says in his introduction, ‘I do not know how successful people will feel I have been, for there are those who believe we have a golden right to make art, irrespective of the circumstances. There are those also who, whenever law is spoken of, straighten their lapels and presume to take the loftiest seat, as if being in the right equates with justice and charity. I hope, at least, that I open up the possibility that law (and art) may be much closer to the very heart of the community than we often appreciate.’

Mana Tuturu: Maori Treasures and Intellectual Property Rights will be launched by another great documentary maker Tainui Stephens at the New Zealand Film Archive, Wellington, on Monday 5 December 2005.

Mana Tuturu: Maori Treasures and Intellectual Property Rights by Barry Barclay
Published by Auckland University Press, with assistance from Creative NZ
PB; 276p; $44.99


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