Research: Mama’s Trippin’

Ferns. Neil Dawson. Te Ngakau (Civic Square), Wellington, New Zealand.
This sculptural orb of interwoven fern leaves is suspended by wires above the square.
Ferns features in a scene from Mama’s Trippin’, in the Wellington thread of the novel.

Inspiration for my novel Mama’s Trippin’ came from two very different places. The first was a growing frustration over media reports concerning substance abuse, which tended to focus primarily on youth drug culture. I wanted to explore a different (and relatively common) perspective – that of a teenager and a young child struggling with the fall-out of a parent’s methamphetamine addiction. It was also vital that this novel did not become simply an “issues” book – the fraught relationship between 16-year-old Von and his mother Charlene was absolutely crucial, and their demons and vulnerabilities form the beating heart of the story.

Royal albatross in flight, Taiaroa Head, Dunedin, New Zealand. Photo: Katy Kell
Albatross feathers are a symbol of peace for the Moriori people of Rekohu (Chatham Island), New Zealand

My second source of inspiration came from the Moriori of Rekohu and Rangiauria (Chatham Island and Pitt Island), New Zealand. Moriori culture was built on the principle of peace and the Moriori lived by an ancient covenant that forbade all killing and warfare. In the years following the 1835 invasion of Rekohu, the Moriori made the ultimate sacrifice for their beliefs. Unwilling to repel the invaders, they welcomed the new arrivals and offered to share their resources. Moriori mana remained intact but decades of slavery and subjugation followed in the nineteenth century. Von, the main protagonist in Mama’s Trippin‘, is a young Moriori descendant, and in the book I explore the parallels between his struggle to build a relationship with his troubled mother, and his emerging respect and empathy for his Moriori ancestors. During the research and development phase of Mama’s Trippin’, I received the approval of the Hokotehi Moriori Trust to proceed with this thread of the story. I was also invited to the official celebration of Kopinga, The First Moriori Marae on Rekohu., where I met the Moriori friends and Elders who had generously shared their stories. I had many unforgettable experiences at traditional Moriori sites, including seeing the Manu Moriori (tree carvings or dendroglyphs) at Hapupu, Manukau reserve and the kopi groves and middens along the Henga foreshore.

Rekohu (Chatham Island), New Zealand.

For more information about the Moriori of Rekohu and Rangiauria:

Hokotehi Moriori Trust

King, Michael. 2000. Moriori – A People Rediscovered (Revised Edition). Penguin Books. ISBN 0 14 010391

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand