On the Matter of Kava: From the Past to the Present to the Future
Māhina, Ō. (2017). On the matter of kava: From the past to the present to the future (Keynote presentation). Paper presented at the Kava: A workshop for kava researchers and enthusiasts, Anthropology and Pacific Studies Seminar Series, The University of Waikato, April 21.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/11043
Paradoxically, it is thought that people in Tonga specifically and the Moana Pacific generally walk forward (‘alu ki mu‘a) into the past (kuongamu‘a “age-in-the-front”) and, at the same timespace, walk backward (‘alu ki mui) into the future (kuongamui “age-in-the-back”), both taking place in the present (kuongaloto “age-in-the-middle”), where both the elusive, already-taken-place past and the illusive, yet-to-take-place future are constantly mediated in the ever-changing, conflicting present. Historically, it simply means that because the past (kuohili “that-which-has-come-to-pass”) has stood the test of timespace, it must be brought to the front (mu‘a) of people as guidance and because the future (kaha‘u “that-which-is-yet-to-come”) is yet to take place, it must be brought to the back (mui) of people, informed by their refined past knowledge, skills and experiences, both taking place in the present (lotolotonga “that which is the here-and-now”), where they are permanently negotiated in the social process. (Tā-Vā (Time-Space) Philosophy/Theory of Reality). This paper makes a serious attempt to critically examine the matter of kava in its multifarious dimensions from a tavaist philosophical or theoretical perspective. In doing so, it strictly calls for the systematic adoption of a logical, total rather than an illogical, partial approach to the matter of kava, justly critiquing it in the broader context of the time-space (tā-vā), form-content (fuo-uho) and functional (‘aonga) relationships between the past, present and future. Given that the matter of kava is both physical and social in nature, it therefore requires that it be reflected upon totally and not partially, focusing on the temporal-formal, spatial-substantial and functional relationships between plant (‘akau) and body (sino), specifically those relating to their bio-chemical, molecular biological, and narcotic properties. These are then projected both actually and symbolically beyond the realm of the physical to the domain of the social, where a range of lasting social institutions of immense intellectual, cultural, political, artistic and now economic significance have been established. By broadly situating the matter of kava in the plural, cultural, collectivistic, holistic and circular context of the past, present and future, by virtue of their coexistence and continuity as intersecting or connecting and separating physical and social tendencies, it is hope that we can have a clear sense of its historical and ceaseless transformation over time and space as a human concept and practice. This includes the increasing economic appropriation and exploitation of kava by multinational pharmaceutical companies on a large scale, in view of their total established physical and social attributes in reality as in nature, mind and society, where the truly controversial issue of biological, intellectual and cultural property ownership is introduced into the existing equation, theoretically and practically problematised by a sense of globalism, commercialism and legalism.
The University of Waikato
© 2017 copyright with the presenter