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The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke Reading

by Author Tina Makereti

Last week we were very lucky to be able to tautoko [support] Tina Makereti’s book launch of her most recent book ‘The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke’, [where the book is set] in London. Here she is sharing some of the first few pages of her incredible, poetic and inspiring book, that transports the reader to another life time… that of ‘The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke’.

Tina’s work of historical fiction brings to life the character of James Pōneke [and orphaned maori boy, left by his father to be raised by missionaries after the brutal murder of his whanau [family] and scattering of his iwi [tribe] across Te Ika a Maui or the north Island of Aotearoa]. Although Pōneke himself is imagined, created in the mind of Makereti [living in colonial era Aotearoa] he is still a very relatable character for modern day mixed-maori millennials. Tina Makereti explores themes of the diaspora, ideas of ‘code switching’, loss of cultural identity, exoticism and the colonial gaze through the coming of age of James. All themes that are still incredibly relevant today.

It was inspiring to be able to be a part of Tina’s book launch, listening to her in her own words describe how she made the book come life. Quizzing her on how she combatted the colonial gaze of our tipuna [ancestors]. The way Makereti developed her characters to be much more than just the ‘dusky maiden’ or the ‘noble savage’ was incredibly interesting, as it is after all this character development that makes you both relate to, feel for and fall in love with James.

Although I am only 4 chapters in, Makereti’s book is a keeper. Her use of words creates strong, vivid images of the events that take place in the book, transporting you to a time that never existed, but that leaves the feelings and emotions of the characters embellished on your heart. I look forward to reading more, and encourage you to do the same.

Words & Video: Ariana Davis


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