Review Article on The pohutukawa tree
"The pohutukawa tree" is a dramatic play written by Bruce Mason in the 1960s. An important idea that is shown in this text is how cultural misunderstandings are caused by the narrow conformity of society. This idea is relevant to all young teenagers today as it is important that we all learn to respect other cultures and to avoid conflict, especially as the country we live in, New Zealand has grown into a rather diverse country. The different viewpoints between the Maori and Pakeha on land, native plants and modernization show the idea of cross-cultural misunderstandings in the play.
The first idea of cultural misunderstandings is shown in this play through the consideration levels that the Pakeha and Maori had on the land at Te Parenga. In the play a descendant of Maori chief Aroha Mataria is having a discussion while Clive Atkinson, a financially stable pakeha man, on whether she should sell her section of the land, Aroha believes that the land is eternally sacred, describing it as "a holy place, now and forever". Whereas for Atkinson the land is only for its physical value. Aroha believes that the land must be kept as the land was lived on by her ancestors and to ensure peace between Aroha's grandfather, the deceased chief of her tribe, whetumarama, and Jesus the Christ. Aroha and Atkinson carry on their conversation and we can see it is extremely noticeable that Atkinson does not seem to understand the significance of the land, both culturally and historically for Aroha, as Atkinson has been raised in a mostly Pakeha society. In the Pakeha culture, land is just a form of competition and individualism. Atkinson says "land must be used sometimes, not just remembered. All things must come to an end, you know." In the Maori culture, land is a special treasure and should always be used with the utmost respect. This teaches us, teens, that it's extremely important for the younger generation to be open-minded and to respect the beliefs and ideas of other cultures, as different cultures around the world may have different ideas on land ownership, so have to try our best to respect all cultures.
As the play progresses another cultural misunderstanding that is shown in the play is through the different perspectives cultures have on the value of items. We can see this in the play when clive Atkinson accidentally injures himself, by hitting his head on a low hanging branch from Mataria's tree, Atkinson gets annoyed and curses the tree "damn that thing, I have told her time and time again to cut it down. Ahh, why does it matter anyway". Aroha's heritance is something she is very proud of and she does not want to trim or cut the tree as it holds importance to her. The tree was planted three by her grandfather, whetumarama who was a Maori chief, he planted the tree after he killed many Pakeha in order to protect his tribe. "The red flowers might be a sign of blood between the Maori and Pakeha forever". Maoritanga encourages people to work together to form a sense of unity in a tribe and to dig deep into something to find it's significance and value. At first clive, Atkinson appreciates the beauty of the tree when it is bloom, but then he thinks the tree is quite unpleasant to look, as the tree's health starts to deteriorate with the weather. This is relevant to us teenagers as nowadays society may unintentionally influence us to be self-centered or superficial and to just look at the exterior of things before forming an opinion on it. I believe it's important for as teenagers before passing on our judgment on others to try to see situations from other people's cultural values in this multicultural society.
Lastly, we see that cultural misunderstandings can occur between people of the same race. The pohutukawa tree is set in the years following ww2. This was when the idea of youth culture had started to develop as New Zealand was slowly forming its own unique culture after separating from Britain. A cultural misunderstanding between the same race is shown through the misunderstanding between Aroha and her kids, Queenie, and Johnny. We see this when Queenie, Aroha's daughter starts singing popular song " can't give you anything but love baby", at Atkinson's daughter Sylvia's wedding, during the time when a toast is made. Aroha immediately feels ashamed from her singing " her eyes flashing with anger" and she starts singing a Maori waiata instead. Ariha felt ashamed at Queenie while the pakeha seems to not mind the singing, Johnny also becomes drunk and behaves crazily. He is to Aroha when he suddenly announces "ma! I can fly! Watch! watch me leave the ground!" since Aroha has been brought up and raised in a rather strict Maori culture she does not want to accept the fact her kids have been raised in pakeha/western and teenage culture. The play shows, since her kids were almost entirely influenced by the western culture, as they were raised in a pakeha society, they are unknown do wrong in the eyes of their mum, Aroha. This idea is important and relevant to me as a teen because it helps me to further understand that although keeping hold of our cultural identity traditions, we also need to be accepting and open-minded to other cultures, as it is essential for us as the younger generations
To conclude "The Pohutukawa tree was a very significant play. The idea that cross-cultural misunderstandings are caused by the narrow conformity of society was very cleverly crafted into this play. I believe this play is extremely other teenagers such as myself as it sends an important message to teens, that in order to avoid conflict in this multicultural modern world we must respect each other's values, beliefs, and cultural ideas. Overall cultural
misunderstandings was a very important idea in the play and many other teens must be able to feel it's relevance in this modern world.
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