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The Whale Rider gives a strong background on the challenges and heritage that are faced with tribal communities. In addition, the book gives the change that is taking place in the modern world as the communities try to adapt. The cultural cringe is depicted in the book by the marginalized traditional societies. The rich cultural heritages of the tribes are facing a lot of challenges from the modernizing and secular ways.
The marginalized ethnic and cultural groups are finding it difficult to maintain their traditional cultures due to the pressures of the modern world that they face. These challenges include; economic, religious, and social aspects. Modernization has brought changes in the medical field, technology, governance systems, and different aspects of material lifestyles. This makes hard for the tribal identities, as people tend to live in denial, to enjoy the benefits that modernization brings at the expense of the rich cultural heritage that exist.
The pressure for conformity of the modernization is from the various depictions of the traditional aspects as patriarchal, superstitious, and outmoded. The modern sensitivities recoil some practices that are seen as inhuman. However, the interface for modernity and tradition ways gives a re-negotiation on the cultures. This brings the benefit of modernity and at the same time, preserving the distinctive and vital aspects of the traditional heritage.
Whale Rider as a book and film captures the tension that exists between modernization and traditional cultures. The book by use of the Maori community tries to give the worth and integrity of tribal identity. The community is found in the off coast of New Zealand. The book gives the story of a young girl called Pai. The character tries to prove to her grandfather Koro who is stubborn that, as a female, she is worth to become heir of Paiker her tribe. She wants to be the first female to occupy this position. The Piker is the lineage that they trace their ancestral roots.
The film gives the feminist diatribe that exposes the chauvinisms that are embedded in the years of patriarchy. This is depicted by Pai’s resistance in a community that is demoralized, apathetic, and adrift with the cultures. The night that Pai is dressed in the traditional dress and speaks on her native Maori language shows this clearly. She recalls and narrates her people’s origin, in a virtual empty hall for the community (Doyle, 57). However, the chief guest Koro, who is her guest of honor who was to appreciate her line, is not present.
Koro is insular and self loathing as he has failed to get a successor. The tradition of the Maori community requires a male heir to the throne. However, the males have all failed in the leadership trials. Pai has gone so far by spreading her wings in the community by bringing her people’s stories. The performance that she had at that night was trying to prove the culture of the Maori people. However, this threatens Koro’s faith and beliefs as tears are streaming down her chicks. The performance gives the people that have been repressed and struggled with tradition cultures a symbolic resonance. This is what is taking place in most of the traditions around the world. The indigenous recognition is being swept aside by the thrust of modernity.
In the film, Pai’s brother death who is the apparent heir is shown in downward decline. The event has become to be as an example of a scapegoat for the community ills. The communities are the ones who lack the faith to keep the values of their traditions. In addition, the ability and relevance of the difficulties that are facing them are not addressed properly. Moreover, the style of Koro’s leadership is bringing problems as it increases the conflict generation and uncompromising situations.
Pai in Whale Rider is the catalyst in the community’s reinvigoration. However, she is not in this alone as she gets support from others. This belief has to get the support of others in the community for it to succeed. Koro’s wife, Nanny redirects Pai subtly every moment that Koro rejects the participation of the trial by protecting sacredness and tapu. This, she does by refusing to accept the leadership ceremony or warea as it is known by the community, to take place. This is done until Pai arrives and she points Uncle Rawidi to her. He is the second son, and he becomes re-energized by Pai as she seeks the skills of taiaha from him.
Pai’s father abandoned waka that is the sacred grove that she has. The waka is worn, neglected, chipped, and wind tossed. This indicates the emblematic withering of the people in the community’s faith. However, it is there by the sea that Pai, under the carved figure head of Paikea wrestles the problems. This she does with direction and purpose for both for the community and her own benefits. At this place, she listens to the words spoken by Nanny Flowers and her father. They both undermine the Koro authority to give her an advantage. Therefore, she looks at the struggle and compares it to the one that her grandfather had. Pai derives her sense of identity strongly, despite the dogmatic assertion of the male privileges that are so passionate in the protection of the values of the community.
The whales at the beach are metaphoric, just like the strands that are knotted in the rope that Koro antagonism snapped. However, Pai did manage to weave all this together. The community Warangara Maori is embodied to the accumulated traditions that they have. The community has a clear choice on this issue. The whales will suffocate and perish if they are not moved, this is the same for the Diaspora who are in Koro’s reign. Koro ordered a tractor in his aggressive fashion to harness and grapple the ropes. This was to force the whales back to the water. However, this exercise ended as a failure in his part. The community miserably dissipated. This made Rawidi look on the verge where he sees the figure of Pai who is darkened. She is proud at the pod of the waka. This is just like the ancient avatar that exists in Paikea. He does look down upon himself and disapproved the efforts of his tribe.
Pai whispered to herself “They wish to die”. It is not clear whether this is directed to her people or the whales. The whale’s projection shows the demoralization of the people. This makes her believe that they can be relocated but by use of the right approach (Ihimaera, 267). By the rigidity and authoritarianism that is depicted by Koro, Pai starts with the, fundamental traditional, Maori nose rub or hongi.
As Pai straddles, the whale luminal twilight descends just like the legendary Paikea that was before her. There is almost telegraphic communication by the creature that comes from the deep waters. This embodies the collective unconsciousness of the community that she belongs. It makes it possible to deliver some truth message to the people. This involves the evolving nature that comes with purpose and respect for the community ways. The vigor and strength can be glimpsed from the changes that are taking place. This is like the whales that transmit themselves from the shore and the tribe that has discovered the true heir in Pai. The sight of Pai on top of the whale gives the quality of the epiphany. This is a symbolic act that in the end fuses the ethos that is in a tribe. This is made real from the initially seen dim and imagined fable and myth. The community got unity of purpose from seeing one of them performing the miracle. She never lost faith or stopped searching for the worth of the traditions that were collected and knotted together. By this manifestation of the act, the strands of the intertwined generations are shown in the film.