The book, “Kisses in the Nederends” tells a story about a man, Oilei, who one day wakes up with a horrible pain in his anus, and his journey to find a cure for his pain. Throughout the book, the story subsequently unfolds under various introductions of new characters and unexpected developments due to numerous bizarre encounters. In wholesome with all the extreme peculiarities and frequent vulgarities provided to the readers, this book succeeds in criticizing the persistent hardships and injustice that are being imposed on the Pacific and its people, caused by the aftermath of colonialism and the expanding globalization in the shape of neo-colonialism. Critiques toward power relations and colonial dominance in the Pacific are effectively illustrated by the author’s usage of metaphors, parables and allegories throughout the story. Moreover, the fixation on the specific part of the main character’s body creates a platform for the readers to initiate and engage in the discourse of the importance of decolonization and demilitarization in the Pacific.
The main character’s anus plays an essential role in depicting crucial elements that must be considered in order to deconstruct the reinforced stereotypes imposed on the Pacific and its people. Historically, the Pacific has been marginalized as the “other” under imperative Eurocentric ideology, often described as the “Pacific Rim”, a “hole” or a place of “absence”. As the canon of marginalization bound rigidly with colonization encroached the Pacific, it has silenced the voices of resistance of the Pacific islanders. Instead, the “silence” was replaced with surrogate voices spoken by power dominant countries, such as the United States, creating a dynamic of “tropicalism” that regards the Pacific as a place of enchantment, a fantasyland and a paradise. This dynamic not only founded a biased basis of the Pacific as a playground for tourists from all across the world, but simultaneously reflected a controversial mentality on the people who dwell in the Pacific as individuals who do not hold any problems or troubles in their lives. The author breaks down this stereotype with the narrative of the main character’s pain in the anus. The character is constantly in agony, vulgar languages spewing from his mouth countless times, every experience in which Oilei undergoes is far from an utopian experience, but a series of subsequent experiences of rawness, crudity and pain. Thus, the gravity of the revelation of Oilei’s anus as a metaphor of the Pacific is indispensable, for it is the reflected complexity of colonialism and tropicalism of the West, in which the author conversely applied that obsession of the “Pacific” as a space of void, into an agency to create a vital discourse of awareness and consciousness toward the realities and issues in the Pacific.
Furthermore, as Oilei’s pain is treated as trivial and unimportant in the book, thus respectively, many of which solutions and cure offered to Oilei are not effective in solving his fundamental problem or pain, some merely effective in the sense that it offers temporary ease, and others occasionally worsening his pain. The readers may even feel cynical that Oilei is not guaranteed with effective and compatible cure, however, similar irresponsible attitude is taken toward grave issues in the Pacific such as politics, culture, environment, health and many other by other peripheral states and authorities. As the issues in the Pacific arise, powerful countries do not grant solutions (though potentially able to) that allow the Pacific to be sustainable, but provide intermittent solutions that do not significantly contribute to the Pacific. Tragically, solutions which are offered are often in a form of compromise for the government and for the people in the Pacific which results in the benefit of the countries which granted the offer.
In regard to the necessity of the inclusion of the Pacific into the global discourse and platform, the author layers the irony of the lack or the absence of the Pacific with the use of metaphor of Oilei’s anus. The anus as itself, a part of human body that many people would feel uncomfortable discussing openly and publicly. A body part in which it is often considered suitable or appropriate when indeed it is not discussed bluntly and in a crude manner. Nonetheless, the discomfort in which many people might feel whilst discussing about “anus”, may precisely be the reason why it was chosen (The Pacific in the 21st Century World discussion, December 22, 2017). As the absence of the Pacific is repeatedly questioned, it is the realization of its existence, the agency to listen to the “silence” and the insight to observe the “void” that will open path to the sovereignty of the Pacific, and thus to their sustainability developing upon their culture and environment.
Fundamentally, the drive of missionary complex in the Western mentality to “fix” and “solve” other countries’ issues stirs unnecessary disputes both externally and internally. External reach with the ostensible motivation of little cultural respect and awareness to “aid” the Pacific, reinforces and creates further complex and sensitive conflict. Furthermore, the author seems to criticize the Western arrogant attitude of “there are no problems that cannot be solved” which relates back to the missionary complex, causing secondary disasters which prolongs the resolution of the original issue, and thus places the islanders in unnecessary turmoil at their expense. Healers of whom Oilei met addressed that they knew how to heal him, and sometimes even tricking him cunningly in making him believe of his definite recovery. Dating back to the previous idea of the West granting offers to the Pacific governments to guarantee temporary solutions, the “healing” seems to resemble the “offers” and “treaties” proposed to the Pacific, and the “healers”, the West, seem to make convenient escapes whenever the time calls for. Ultimately, the continuous pain in which Oilei goes through even during his entire process of “healing” must not be taken lightly, for it is the metaphorical depiction of the pain of the Pacific islanders precisely due to the damage and abuse the colonial dominance have committed severely.
The author criticizes colonialism and its fundamental power structure by using a metaphor of “Tuktuks”, human like creatures that dwell inside human bodies, forming tribes and marking territories based on a hierarchy system of “upper and lower zones” (Hau’Ofa, 1995, p.86) that resembles much of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized (The Pacific in the 21st Century World discussion, December 22, 2017).
“Within each zone tribes were ranked according to their relative locations, above or below each other, the highest being those in the brain territories, the lowest those tuktuks who lived in the arse and the genitals.” (Hau’Ofa, 1995, p.86).
“It was the brain tribes who invented the ranking system, claiming that since they were the only ones who could see, hear and smell things outside their body-world because of their commanding proximity to its major apertures, and that since they lived in the loftiest territories….far above the….filth in the anal region, they were the best and cleanest tuktuks of all.” (Hau’Ofa, 1995, p.86).
The arrogance which derives from the privilege of the upper ranked Tuktuks of being able to “see”, strongly connects to the Western notion of the “God’s Eye View”, and the resulting marginalization driven with its audacity. The invention of Eurocentric hierarchy is also criticized, for it is a system consisted of racism and discrimination by “othering” the islanders as dirty and primitive. The author further critiques the exploitation and unequal trade and relationship between the upper and lower tribes,
“Since tuktuks lived entirely on ninongs and ninong dairy products, it was absolutely necessary that they trade with each other in order to vary their diet….The ninong trade was conducted and controlled by tribes in the brain region who had convinced all others of their superior organizational ability and business honesty….much of their mutual animosity arose from the Uppertuk resentment of the fact that the things they wanted the most were available only in the lowest regions.” (Hau’ofa, 1995, p.87).
The resentment of the Uppertuks toward the Lowertuks are further explained in the story with a reference to rude and name calling, and the rejection of the Uppertuks of having have to communicate and interact with the “inferior” tuktuks who are too vulgar for the “superior” Uppertuks. Not only were the words referring to the Lowertuks inappropriate and immoral, those words also depicted the distorted mentality of the Uppertuks (Western), of seeing the Lowertuks (the Pacific islanders) as unworthy of treating as mutual and equals. The culture of the Lowertuks, whether in the form of tattoos, chants, cave paints, dances or sculptures, is not considered as something which holds spirituality and sacredness in a way that it does deeply to the Lowertuks. For the Uppertuks, the sacredness is discarded, for the culture of the Lowertuks is something simply to mock about, and a mere instrument to degrade them of their existence.
Furthermore, it is illustrated in the book that Oilei’s pain will continue as long as the conflict between the Lowertuks and Uppertuks persist. Accordingly, this logic could be applied to the Pacific islanders and to the other oppressing powers; thus the islanders’ pain will not be healed unless the miscommunications and ignorance of the dominant powers are redeemed and solved.
Although the author draws out many political and cultural messages regarding to the Pacific in his book by using allegories, “transnational” seems to be an important element in the narrative of decolonization and demilitarization. According to Hau’ofa in his interview published in the “Kisses in the Nederends” (1995), which was conducted in September 1998,
“The solutions to all the major problems in our islands lie in regional and ultimately in wider international co-operation (even if this means struggle), and not so much in our own small and narrow local efforts.” (Hau’ofa, personal communication, September, 1988, p.164).
The necessity of progressing and resolving the most profound and fundamental problems in the Pacific, and the ultimate tool to solve those problems is sincere communication. Without communication, no negotiations can be initiated nor co-operations can be built; the voices of the islanders can never fully reach extensively and externally unless there are paths for them to advocate their protests and desires. As Oilei was able to have pain healed outside of his homeland, similar opportunities must exist for the Pacific Islanders. One must cease the exclusion and delusion on the Pacific as seeing the place as a paradise, in which its people do not suffer the way other people do in “developed” countries, that problems which occur in many parts in the world do not directly influence the Pacific. Recapitulating the representation of the Pacific as the main character’s anus, the author seems to desire for the Pacific as not treated as though a convenient “hole” to throw away problems for the dominant countries, but to see it as a “whole”, an existence of entire inclusion and embrace of heritages and cultures of the Pacific (The Pacific in the 21st Century discussion, December 22, 2017).
Respectively, the scene in which the main character is confronted with his pain, guides the readers to the revelation of the important correlation between Oilei’s personal issues (the Pacific islanders) with those of the world,
“One way of contributing to world peace, and this is where your seemingly unrelated and unique personal problem is in fact connected to global issues of great moment, is to spread the gospel that very part of the human body is beautiful and sacred in the eyes of the gods…….” (Hau’ofa, 1995, p.105).
This scene is striking in a sense that it may offer the author’s wishes, for the world to see the Pacific and its beauty, with all the stereotypes and biases discarded. With the other strong authorities no longer oppressing the Pacific, but gaining profound understanding of the Pacific. The encouragement by the oppressive power to self-reflect and recognize the agency within themselves to treat the Pacific with respect. These movements will thus allow the canon of decolonization and decolonization to be given the freedom to flow into the path of sovereignty and independence, and no longer resisted from the oppressive power to stop such a canon.
In conclusion, “Kisses in the Nederends”, illustrates the permanent pain and struggles of which the Pacific Islanders are undergoing due to colonization and globalization operated from strong oppressive powers. Due to colonialism, Pacific islands have been marginalized; the voices of the islanders protesting for sovereignty are being oppressed and discarded, thus considered to be peripheral and unimportant. The spreading and continuous pain of the main character symbolizes the suffering of the islanders, constantly fighting for their equality and their rightful place in their own land. Withholding the foreseeable messages from the book, it is safe to say that for the Pacific to gain its sovereignty, incorporation is an absolute element. The way in which the Pacific is being treated in foreign affairs in various aspects, is an unfortunate depiction of the reality of the position of the Pacific in the world, however, with transnational platforms, discourses and involvement, the Pacific can ultimately be the place for the people. In this sense, the book, “Kisses in the Nederends” is an embodiment of which it manifested the significance of the Pacific and its fight and struggles to overcome the foreign authorities to gain its sovereignty.