Saturday, February 14, 2015
Amazingly poetic and spiritual
ANNETTE ARKEKETA – HOKTI - 1997
More than theater this is poetry in
the most traditional way they used poetry, music and stage arts in the Middle
Ages when civilization was a lot more oral than written. I believe that is the
real dimension of this play. It is a production emerging from an oral, still
essentially oral civilization.
The second dimension is that it is
written by a woman, about women and for women, what’s more Indian women.
Otherwise some of the declarations in this text would be absolutely
respect as a woman
respect as an Indian
And I better
damn well get respect as an Indian woman. . .
That does not bother me at all,
except that it expels me from being the audience of this discourse. She can be
my metaphorical mother. She can be my metaphorical sister. She can be my
metaphorical daughter. But she cannot be me. The last assertion is not only
disturbing. It is just absurdly terroristic. If she wants to be respected in
her real being, she cannot in any way deny my being respected in my own being.
I cannot be her and she cannot be me, and it is not a question of sex. It is a
question of individual freedom. If she wants to be free she has to acknowledge
my freedom, the freedom of the audience, otherwise she is not producing a play or
even poetry but she would be producing a ritual based on faith that would
enable all participants to commune together.
Then you can understand that with
such a start this author, this play is literally rejecting the greatest part of
its potential audience because it negates the individual nature, essence and
existence of others who are metaphorically swallowed up and digested into the
author, the person speaking on the stage, the character, the Indian woman these
actresses are supposed to embody, impersonate. And yet it is a great play.
The play is about an Indian woman
and her fate in this society. She says speaking to another woman: “you showed
me that in this / world, we must not let anything / or anyone own our spirit.” But
that’s just the drama of that Hokti. She let her spirit be owned, possessed controlled
by Alcohol Spirit. In other words she is an alcoholic and the main scene is
Hokti in an alcoholic coma in hospital. Her grandparents keep faith in her and
consider she is not dead as long as she breathes. Her little sister Lori keeps
faith in her because she had promised Lori she will always look after her and
Lori cannot imagine she would not keep her promise. The father is rather
neutral about the death of his daughter and the mother is relieved. The parents
are in a way satisfied that they will not have to go on cleaning up the mess
their daughter has been creating. Even worse, the boyfriend or supposed
boyfriend Larry is only coming to her death bed to have the parents sign the
IOU for all the money he lent Hokti for her to pay for her alcoholic addiction.
But Hokti can hear all that and she
becomes desperate. She wants in a way to make up for that mess. Alcohol Spirit
is trying all he can to keep her within her addiction. But Strong Spirit moves
in and starts counseling Hokti and supporting her decision to change. She is
firm enough to be able to come out of her coma and to stick to her decision. And
it is all organized around the fight between the two spirits and the use of the
first person of the plural by Strong Spirit.
Spirit [to Strong Spirit]:
You stay out of this. Who are you anyway, this is between me and Hokti.
Strong Spirit: No, this is between you and me. You are no
longer a part of our life.
Alcohol Spirit: You can’t send me away just like that.
Spirit: Yes, just like that. You no longer fool us. We can
get rid of you. With each breath we
take we can make that
decision to say you will no longer be a part of us.
At this moment we can wonder if that
“we” is immediately referential and covers only Strong Spirit and Hokti, or if
it covers the whole Indian community that is symbolically here getting rid of
its or their alcoholism. At this moment she becomes able to sing a prayer song
and thank Strong Spirit to have brought her back from the dead, and Lori can
come in and join in. Hokti’s resolution then becomes the resolution of the
whole community: “I will never let alcohol be a part of my life again. Forever.
And that is a long, long time.”
This play is thus a story of
regeneration and this process is the result of the alliance of magic and
medicine represented by a male dancer and a female dancer having a pas-de-deux
on the stage.
After various small situations and
cameos of small characters we can come to the conclusion given by a man as if
these women had to speak through a man to come to some prediction about the
future. And that conclusion is a whole creed about the possible future the
Indian community can build for themselves.
And then we can just keep a few
words, “pure spirituality,” “we are what has happened here,” “our children will
be what has happened here,” “the earth has always been here” and the final
words of this web of words are:
and Mother Earth
And we can feel and hear the
junction of the Christian concept of God and the Indian concept of Mother Earth
in this new Indian credo. The Indians can survive and even prosper strong and
free in North American society because they have been able to bring together
the two spiritualities, the two religions. Remember, reconcile and recommit as
the Catholic Church has been advocating since the 1970s