Marshall lore

BICULTURALISM: Music, the environment and biculturalism feature strongly in Gisborne man Nigel Marshall's life. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell

On their return to New Zealand from the mercantile cricket team The Sons of Hadlee vs South India tour, Gisborne man Nigel Marshall and fellow Red Cap John Walsh stopped in Borneo and hired a car.

Somehow they encountered a family who were boiling up a pot of bubu-like shellfish.

“They had a guitar so they sang Hotel California,” says Nigel. “So we sang Bob Marley’s Redemption Song back.

“We shared food and music.”

In many ways, the snapshot represents two aspects of Nigel’s engagement with the world — cross-culturalism and music. Naturally, the need for shared cultural experience in the Gisborne-East Coast region surfaced as the central theme of this interview.

“This region needs biculturalism,” he says. “It’s not just about restoring language. Whole levels of society need to be addressed. If te reo Maori is our other official language, all our public signage should be bilingual.

“We have nothing to lose from embracing biculturalism but everything to lose by suppressing the culture.”

Asked if there is any precedent overseas to successfully decolonise Maori, Nigel says other indigenous cultures look to New Zealand to see what is happening here.

“What a lot of people don’t realise is Maori are world leaders in the decolonisation movement. A large number of Maori presenters will be at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education in Toronto this month.”

A self-described “passionate Gisbornite”, Nigel loves the concept of this region’s mountains and rivers as sacred features of the landscape that are invested with life-force.

Citing British writer Peter Ackroyd’s biography of the Thames river in England, the notion of sacred sites is not particular to indigenous culture alone, he says. Before the agrarian and industrial revolutions in Europe, people’s connection with certain sites was an everyday part of the culture.

“We think of animism and totemism as peculiar to indigenous societies but take a look at coats-of-arms. Through Maori tribalism we get a glimpse of our own tribal roots.”

Brought up in the Scottish Presbyterian church in Naenae, Nigel returned to the Scottish church community in later years when he was asked to be a pall-bearer for a friend’s father. He was greeted by older people who recognised him. He realised the Scottish church had a structure close to that of the marae, he says.

“Especially in the Scottish environment where there are clans and close family ties. The social welfare system, despite its best intentions, can’t replicate the marae or that old church structure.”

A youngster in NZ

Born in London, Nigel’s mother brought him to New Zealand as a youngster in 1957.

Because the British government took children from solo mothers and packed them off to be fostered out in the Antipodes, Nigel suspects his mother brought him to New Zealand to avoid that pain. She landed a job as a house-keeper for a tobacco farmer in Motueka but died of asthma two weeks after arriving in New Zealand. Nigel was five years old.

“I was adopted in Nelson and then we moved to Naenae. I had a great time growing up there. I went possum trapping in the hills. The Waiwhetu Stream was where I’d catch freshwater crayfish and bring them home and cook them up in a billy.”

He said goodbye to Naenae when he was 17 years old, a second-year fifth former, and lived for a time in Kings Cross in Australia where he experienced a variety of jobs that ranged from working in a railway yard to handing out leaflets for a shop that specialised in the stuff of the subculture of the time.

He also had a crack at selling insurance for an American company.

“The trainer would come in and shout ‘how are we feeling today?’ We’d stand up and pound the desks and shout, 'I’m feeling great!'”

On his return to New Zealand he enrolled at Naenae College for his sixth form year and University Entrance certificate. After a year of psychopaedic nursing at Levin’s Kimberley Hospital he studied educational psychology at Victoria University and later worked for several years as an RTLB (Resource teacher: learning and behaviour).

In the meantime, closure of Kimberley Hospital, where he had cared for intellectually disabled children, led to the creation of Explore Services which is who Nigel works for now. He works with people who have intellectual disability and intellectual issues.

Also central to his life is music. He started playing the guitar and writing songs when he was about 17 years old.

“A big leap for me was when I moved to Ruatoria. There were a lot of great musicians there including the Tihei family. I went to school with them in Naenae.

“Moving to Ruatoria was a huge move for me in terms of my music. I learned so much. They were good guitarists and singers. That was an incredible recognition. If you had a talent for music you’d be recognised. A talent for music is seen as a real value in the community.

“I realised I had some value.”

On their return to New Zealand from the mercantile cricket team The Sons of Hadlee vs South India tour, Gisborne man Nigel Marshall and fellow Red Cap John Walsh stopped in Borneo and hired a car.

Somehow they encountered a family who were boiling up a pot of bubu-like shellfish.

“They had a guitar so they sang Hotel California,” says Nigel. “So we sang Bob Marley’s Redemption Song back.

“We shared food and music.”

In many ways, the snapshot represents two aspects of Nigel’s engagement with the world — cross-culturalism and music. Naturally, the need for shared cultural experience in the Gisborne-East Coast region surfaced as the central theme of this interview.

“This region needs biculturalism,” he says. “It’s not just about restoring language. Whole levels of society need to be addressed. If te reo Maori is our other official language, all our public signage should be bilingual.

“We have nothing to lose from embracing biculturalism but everything to lose by suppressing the culture.”

Asked if there is any precedent overseas to successfully decolonise Maori, Nigel says other indigenous cultures look to New Zealand to see what is happening here.

“What a lot of people don’t realise is Maori are world leaders in the decolonisation movement. A large number of Maori presenters will be at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education in Toronto this month.”

A self-described “passionate Gisbornite”, Nigel loves the concept of this region’s mountains and rivers as sacred features of the landscape that are invested with life-force.

Citing British writer Peter Ackroyd’s biography of the Thames river in England, the notion of sacred sites is not particular to indigenous culture alone, he says. Before the agrarian and industrial revolutions in Europe, people’s connection with certain sites was an everyday part of the culture.

“We think of animism and totemism as peculiar to indigenous societies but take a look at coats-of-arms. Through Maori tribalism we get a glimpse of our own tribal roots.”

Brought up in the Scottish Presbyterian church in Naenae, Nigel returned to the Scottish church community in later years when he was asked to be a pall-bearer for a friend’s father. He was greeted by older people who recognised him. He realised the Scottish church had a structure close to that of the marae, he says.

“Especially in the Scottish environment where there are clans and close family ties. The social welfare system, despite its best intentions, can’t replicate the marae or that old church structure.”

A youngster in NZ

Born in London, Nigel’s mother brought him to New Zealand as a youngster in 1957.

Because the British government took children from solo mothers and packed them off to be fostered out in the Antipodes, Nigel suspects his mother brought him to New Zealand to avoid that pain. She landed a job as a house-keeper for a tobacco farmer in Motueka but died of asthma two weeks after arriving in New Zealand. Nigel was five years old.

“I was adopted in Nelson and then we moved to Naenae. I had a great time growing up there. I went possum trapping in the hills. The Waiwhetu Stream was where I’d catch freshwater crayfish and bring them home and cook them up in a billy.”

He said goodbye to Naenae when he was 17 years old, a second-year fifth former, and lived for a time in Kings Cross in Australia where he experienced a variety of jobs that ranged from working in a railway yard to handing out leaflets for a shop that specialised in the stuff of the subculture of the time.

He also had a crack at selling insurance for an American company.

“The trainer would come in and shout ‘how are we feeling today?’ We’d stand up and pound the desks and shout, 'I’m feeling great!'”

On his return to New Zealand he enrolled at Naenae College for his sixth form year and University Entrance certificate. After a year of psychopaedic nursing at Levin’s Kimberley Hospital he studied educational psychology at Victoria University and later worked for several years as an RTLB (Resource teacher: learning and behaviour).

In the meantime, closure of Kimberley Hospital, where he had cared for intellectually disabled children, led to the creation of Explore Services which is who Nigel works for now. He works with people who have intellectual disability and intellectual issues.

Also central to his life is music. He started playing the guitar and writing songs when he was about 17 years old.

“A big leap for me was when I moved to Ruatoria. There were a lot of great musicians there including the Tihei family. I went to school with them in Naenae.

“Moving to Ruatoria was a huge move for me in terms of my music. I learned so much. They were good guitarists and singers. That was an incredible recognition. If you had a talent for music you’d be recognised. A talent for music is seen as a real value in the community.

“I realised I had some value.”

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Jack Marshall - 4 months ago
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