From The Tail Of The Fish To The Tip

“Home, Land and Sea” is by Trinity Roots, a group who are reportedly even better on stage than they are recorded. I don’t go to live music much because I don’t like crowds and I am essentially a lyrics kind of gal, and live gigs can be pretty hit and miss on lyrical clarity.

But here is the last performance of Trinity Roots (the preamble about one waka becoming three means that they’re splitting up and taking different journeys now), and the last performance of “Home, Land and Sea,” and there’s absolute clarity, and I really wish I’d been there. (NB: Cursing.)

I’ve read stuff that says Trinity Roots aren’t pushing any particular political agenda, and people can take what they want from the (lovely) lyrics. I read the lyrics as a lament at the way the Pākehā settlers moved in and took land and sea rights, often without agreement or adequate compensation, and now, generations later, we’re all dealing with the resulting hot mess, where insufficient money is meant to, but of course can’t, substitute for “home”, and what the heck is up with the foreshore legislation anyway?

The fish, by the way, is Te Ika a Māui/the North Island, Ellie’s home island. In Chapter Fourteen, she goes home.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

I’d known that Te Ika a Māui drifted through his uneasy slumber, while the children of the maiden of the dawn walked blithely on his back. After the canoe, I’d even prepared to see him.

But I hadn’t realised the scale. I couldn’t see the whole of Māui’s fish, any more than I could see the whole island. Valleys and mountains were enormous slashes and humps in his skin, where the tools of Māui’s brothers had torn at him. And as we came in to land at Napier, the worst of his wounds showed itself to me. All the green-drenched winter landscape vanished, the vineyards and patches of paddocks, and beaches as familiar as my own face in the mirror. Instead I saw the festering flesh of the great fish’s belly and the massive bone hook, yellow with age, that was the steep curve of the bay.