White Guitar reran my childhood

Josh Wharehinga

COLUMN

The White Guitar wasn’t a show for me, it was a highlight reel of my life. It had all milestones of my life, moving and upheaval at a young age, violence, family and drugs. A lot of people sitting in the crowd were watching a show, I was watching my life.

The guitar songs that Fa’amoana, the Dad, was playing were the same kind of songs that echoed down the hallway during my upbringing. They were the same songs I first taught myself how to play. I didn’t even know who the artists were when I was young, most of them I still don’t. That song from La Bamba, that other song by that guy Steve, Joe Satch, they all made appearances during The White Guitar. I had actually forgotten about those songs, forgotten about how they made me feel. Music can transport you to a place like no other medium can and the music from The White Guitar did that for me.

Personally, The White Guitar didn’t have themes and I’m betting it wasn’t about themes for a chunk of the gang-affiliated audience who were in the crowd either. I didn’t see a theme of violence, I saw my Monday to Sunday. I didn’t see a theme of drugs, I saw my childhood garage and all my “uncles” and “aunties” who came and went. I didn’t see a relationship dynamic, I saw myself and my brothers. I saw my life.

The link White Guitar makes from disconnection of culture and self, to social deprivation and isolation, to an oppressive and child-abusive state, to gang affiliation, drug addiction, drug dealing, violence and jail wasn’t a play to me, that was Josh Wharehinga’s biography.

In this day of modern, feel-good, sanitised movies we’re all used to endings where the persecuted overcome, the boy marries the girl, the hero saves the day, the son of a drug dealer becomes a councillor; The White Guitar has no such ending.

Don’t get me wrong, White Guitar highlights the successes of their lives but we all know that in real life successes don’t last forever. However, in a White Guitar upbringing our successes usually last way shorter than the norm and falling from dizzying heights are particularly hard. There are some ways of life which are hard to escape.

There were some things that I personally didn’t have to deal with which White Guitar talked about. I was never drug addicted for instance, so it’s not up to me to comment on that, however I know that line will definitely resonate with other gang-affiliated whanau in our community. Dealing with someone who is drug addicted, on the other hand, is definitely something I am familiar with.

I’m not saying all of these things exclusively happen in drug dealer/gang families, but you can’t deny that a White Guitar upbringing seems to be a focal point for all the above. If I, a councillor of the Gisborne District, see things that echo in my own upbringing then it’s pretty simple to deduce that what we’re watching in The White Guitar is something we need to have meaningful conversations about with those most affected, followed by meaningful, well-resourced and expedient action.

I want to thank The White Guitar whanau, not for showing a play, but for showing my life. I don’t see myself in Swan Lake or Les Mis, both shows I enjoy. I saw myself in this and again, I thank you. Mauri.

The White Guitar wasn’t a show for me, it was a highlight reel of my life. It had all milestones of my life, moving and upheaval at a young age, violence, family and drugs. A lot of people sitting in the crowd were watching a show, I was watching my life.

The guitar songs that Fa’amoana, the Dad, was playing were the same kind of songs that echoed down the hallway during my upbringing. They were the same songs I first taught myself how to play. I didn’t even know who the artists were when I was young, most of them I still don’t. That song from La Bamba, that other song by that guy Steve, Joe Satch, they all made appearances during The White Guitar. I had actually forgotten about those songs, forgotten about how they made me feel. Music can transport you to a place like no other medium can and the music from The White Guitar did that for me.

Personally, The White Guitar didn’t have themes and I’m betting it wasn’t about themes for a chunk of the gang-affiliated audience who were in the crowd either. I didn’t see a theme of violence, I saw my Monday to Sunday. I didn’t see a theme of drugs, I saw my childhood garage and all my “uncles” and “aunties” who came and went. I didn’t see a relationship dynamic, I saw myself and my brothers. I saw my life.

The link White Guitar makes from disconnection of culture and self, to social deprivation and isolation, to an oppressive and child-abusive state, to gang affiliation, drug addiction, drug dealing, violence and jail wasn’t a play to me, that was Josh Wharehinga’s biography.

In this day of modern, feel-good, sanitised movies we’re all used to endings where the persecuted overcome, the boy marries the girl, the hero saves the day, the son of a drug dealer becomes a councillor; The White Guitar has no such ending.

Don’t get me wrong, White Guitar highlights the successes of their lives but we all know that in real life successes don’t last forever. However, in a White Guitar upbringing our successes usually last way shorter than the norm and falling from dizzying heights are particularly hard. There are some ways of life which are hard to escape.

There were some things that I personally didn’t have to deal with which White Guitar talked about. I was never drug addicted for instance, so it’s not up to me to comment on that, however I know that line will definitely resonate with other gang-affiliated whanau in our community. Dealing with someone who is drug addicted, on the other hand, is definitely something I am familiar with.

I’m not saying all of these things exclusively happen in drug dealer/gang families, but you can’t deny that a White Guitar upbringing seems to be a focal point for all the above. If I, a councillor of the Gisborne District, see things that echo in my own upbringing then it’s pretty simple to deduce that what we’re watching in The White Guitar is something we need to have meaningful conversations about with those most affected, followed by meaningful, well-resourced and expedient action.

I want to thank The White Guitar whanau, not for showing a play, but for showing my life. I don’t see myself in Swan Lake or Les Mis, both shows I enjoy. I saw myself in this and again, I thank you. Mauri.

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