The writing/cartoon on her wall
It’s a familiar opinion (used particularly by media photographers in defence of their trade): ‘‘ One picture is worth thousands of words.’’
And sometimes, right.
So are cartoonists. The truth of that is on this page. I remembered this cartoon as one of those word beaters last week – drawn more than a decade ago by Malcolm Evans, one-time cartoonist in this and the other Suburban newspapers and before that the Herald.
The cartoon’s impact has stood the test of time – summing up the continuing failure of Maori leaders and many of the people they lead to grapple with violence against children, made plain in hideous hospital statistics and courtroom facts.
It also prompted a revelation of long-standing support from reader Wikitoria Smith. She was so moved by the cartoon’s original appearance all those years ago that she cut it out and put it on her wall.
Her letter: ‘‘I very well remember the Malcolm Evans cartoon illustration of two marae as I was so touched by it that I contacted Malcolm to thank him for his bravery and I enlarged and photocopied the piece.
‘‘I still have them hanging
they’re on my wall. Why? To remind me how fragile our babies, tamariki, mokopuna are in the hands of those who should be loving them, not abusing them, and how do I, as a minority of one, help to make a change?
‘‘I hope sincerely that I am in my own small way by volunteering to work with single mothers.
‘‘At the time I saw the cartoon I was so sad because what he had portrayed was so true that it made me cry.
‘‘Imagine that? A cartoon making me cry!
‘‘The marae on the left shown full of people was in response to what had happened with Dover Samuels over allegations of inappropriate behaviour and the hue and cry supported by many over it. And the marae on the right where the topic was child abuse was empty of people.
‘‘Sadly, this many years later, the question has to be asked: ‘ What has changed?’ New generations have come along to replace the old but with the same problems, if not escalated heights.
‘‘At-risk youth are the ticking time bomb where gated communities may have to be the norm.
‘‘Around the same time, Malcolm Evans also had another cartoon illustration, showing the Closing of the Gaps policy of Labour.
‘‘It showed a clifftop of two sides with a deep hole in the middle. Down that hole was filled with coffins.
‘‘Again I cried. It was another stark message that was so chilling for the truth of it. I felt that Malcolm had captured poignantly a situation that was so sad for the truth of it all.
‘‘I am a mother who has previously had a life of abuse and torture at the hands of someone who professed to love me. It was some time in our lives and four children later that I realised how toxic a love it was.
‘‘Fortunately, I can look back on my life and know that my children, in spite of it, have turned out good and responsible parents.
‘‘As I have always said to them, I know that I am not the best mother in the world but I damn well know that I’m not the worst!’’ Heard on radio: Nameless Maori executives drive expensive cars and live a high life on the strength of Treaty settlements while Maori families in their area struggle on various government payouts and in inadequate housing which are a health menace. Strong and accurate words.
The critic: Ngapuhi elder David Rankin. Among recent headlining Rankin statements: ‘‘Academic Taliban’’ are conspiring to hide the truth that Maori were not the first people to live in New Zealand.
‘‘If we believe our histories then we as Maori are not the indigenous people.’’
He said Maori
stories speak of his ancestors landing here being greeted by a different culture. They talked of a red-headed, fair-skinned people.
Critics responded that this was a ‘‘wild speculation ... which has been around a long time and has been thoroughly disposed of by academic specialists’’. I wasn’t sure which hurt the critics most, the theory or that ‘‘Taliban Academic’’ label.