© Steve Withers – Google Maps

The block in downtown Christchurch was being demolished. The buildings around the public parking lot had been abandoned for a decade. Anyone who wanted, could indulge themselves with cans of spray paint. Some graffiti was elementary, other projects were expertly artistic. A shame the heavy equipment would destroy the good with the bad.

The indigenous Māori people thrived in New Zealand until the arrival of Europeans. To this day, they suffer the fate of indigenous populations all over the world.

It looked like a clown’s face, a fearsome one. Wairua or spirit was from the old Polynesian beliefs, and the art gave it a form with which to act. Wairua would turn the Māori away from Presbyterian, Mormon, and Islam faiths and back to the old ways. Wairua would teach them tapu, noa, and mana again, to preserve who they were, who they are, who they will be one day.

I wrote this in response to J. Hardy Carroll’s What Pegman Saw photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the photo above, taken from Google Maps, as a prompt to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

I’m playing fast and loose with the history of Christchurch and of the Māori people, so don’t look too closely for reality or historic accuracy.

I considered making the spirit vengeful, but as I recall, I already wrote a story about that. Instead, I decided to incite a revival among the Māori people, a return to their original spiritual beliefs, a reunification with who they were before the Europeans arrived. So many indigenous people all over the world have had their cultures, their languages, their spiritual beliefs destroyed by colonizers. I thought it was time some of them got all that back, at least in fiction.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

20 thoughts on “Wairua

  1. …. a clown’s face, a fearsome one. Wairua or spirit was from the old Polynesian beliefs, and the art gave it a form with which to act. Wairua would turn the Māori away from Presbyterian, Mormon, and Islam faiths and back to the old ways. Wairua would teach them tapu, noa, and mana again…..

    This is very interesting, and it is true that the Maori have suffered like many indigenous peoples. For some reason, it hasn’t been quite as bad there in New Zealand as in most other places.

    I want to take this moment to note that indigenous peoples are still being oppressed today. From the breaking of treaties here in the U.S. to the fresh taking of land/way of life around the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was one of the points of my writing this story, Marleen. I wasn’t just taking about historical injustices but current ones. That’s why Wairua chose to act, to restore the people to who they once were.


      • Not to be too culturally judgmental, but the indigenous state of the Maori and other Polynesian peoples was not necessarily all that idyllic. They may have had a distinct sense of identity, but their worldview was not necessarily a comfortable or “civilized” one. There is a lot to be said in favor of the advanced cultural development that the Western world tried to “share” with the third world. Only the unnecessary exploitation that too-often accompanied it is to be regretted. Of course, even this advanced cultural development, regarding notions such as of individual rights and justice, the social contract, economic freedom, the felicific calculus of David Hume, democracy, the pursuit of knowledge and continual improvement, et al, still does not incorporate the fullest degree of development available via HaShem’s Torah (which may well explain the exploitation). The efforts of a Wairua are therefore regressive, and a sham attempt to resolve the real problems faced by these peoples who have suffered from the collision of cultures. It is still an open question to consider what characteristics and values to incorporate into the building or restructuring of a society. This question faces many Americans, as well. It is not constrained to indigenous Polynesians.


      • Since I have no direct knowledge of the Maori or Polynesian culture, the story is meant to be more metaphorical than literal. Basically, I was using my tiny collection of words to express the consequences of the collision of cultures. I had a photo of Christchurch and Wikipedia to draw from, and “Wairua” what my imagination came up with. In fact, it’s less about the condition of the Maori and more about America’s indigenous peoples.


  2. Yes, I saw that, James. What I think a lot of people don’t know is that there are “wild” (from a Limbaugh type point of view) places right now being stolen across the planet. Hooray for capitalism?

    I like that you are drawing attention to current situations in western style nations. Hopefully, we Americans will have some respect for our treaties as well as value for clean water for everyone.


    • I don’t think that tendency is limited to Europeans. I think if any group of human beings takes control of the land and lives of other people, they’ll abuse them.


  3. The guy [and others] who saw the crash (2008) coming for specific reasons — reasons he then bought into himself, for personal profit — has now been investing in water. If only we can ruin the public supply


  4. I like the angle you took with this one. A lot of cultures, lost in the storm of western influence, long for something like this. The way you worked the graffiti into it is excellent. Have you ever heard of a movie called, “Once Were Warriors”? It’s about a Maori family living in modern New Zealand. They battle with alcoholism and family abuse among other troubles. Their lives are hard and unsatisfying. Eventually, they find a guy who teaches traditional Maori dance. With his guidance, they eventually find themselves again.


    • Sounds like a terrific film, but I’ve never heard of it. There are several reservations in my state and the indigenous people living on them struggle with similar problems.

      I did see a film many year ago above a native American who became a physicist. He tried to explain to his family what he did, but their worlds were too far apart.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The Mãori culture and history is a very interesting subject I need to learn more about. The best way would probably be to go there, but it’s quite far away😃 I saw a movie once, Once we were Warriors, I think it’s called. Learned a bit there, if they make a correct image.


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