Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2007
By: Steve Saville
Creator(s): Mat Tait
Publishers: Self Published
Price: NZ $9.00 [plus postage]
‘Love Stories’ is an appropriate title for Mat Tait’s five story compilation. It is presented in a manner that makes you appreciate that its creation was an act of love. Quality paper, careful and polished art work, it looks and feels nice. Then there is the subject matter, five tales of the South Pacific that capture the varied realities of the people who live under the warming sun in those far flung islands, stories that are told with a genuine love for the land that bore them.
Not that the stories are in any way romantic, quite the opposite in fact, it is more that the subject matter is treated with a respect that comes from affection.
The cover itself gives a strong lead to what we will find inside; the large anguished face, seemingly in pain dominates and is backed by a series of symbols such as a heart, an antler, a jandal etc. Strongly symbolic to the point of being surreal and that is an accurate description of some of what lies within.
The five tales themselves deal with different perspectives of life down under and effectively try to give narrative space to the Polynesian, more specifically the Maori and the Pakeha. Underlying all of the stories is a sense of pain, of danger of impending doom that is associated with any settlement of what remains a young and wild country [in this case New Zealand].
The compilation begins with a wordless tale set in an earlier New Zealand. The opening is dominated by a painful child birth but then the story moves through time and place to take on a wider perspective. At least I think that is what it does, the wordless nature of the story means that the narrative gets a little hard to follow once we move away from the scene presenting the birth. What it does do is to set the scene, create an atmosphere, place us in a context and provide us with some lovely art work.
The next story a one pager centred on the Maori creation myth is on much edgier ground. Tait takes the myth and explores the stories behind it, it is a risky undertaking but he gets away with it [just].
Moving on to my personal favourite, ‘The Heading Dog Who Split in Half’ is an engrossing tale of high country sheep farming and mustering told by a laconic narrator so typical of the rural Pakeha males who live in that reality. Essentially it is an example of rural rather than urban myth and works on the same level and for the same reasons as its urban counterparts.
If the comic were to end there I would be satisfied but obviously leaving the reader satisfied and comfortable is not on Tait’s agenda as he completes his comic with an unsettling exploration of a disturbed mind that creates a physical? Space to lock away a lifetime of fears, secrets and paranoias in, here they fester until the time is right to unlock the door and face them once again.
This is a visually compelling work, Mat Tait has been producing attention grabbing work for some time now and the compilation of much of it in a single volume is an important event in the development of small press publication in New Zealand. It looks like New Zealand, feels like New Zealand and if I was inclined to chew at it I am sure it would taste of New Zealand.
In a Word: Proud..
If you have a comment or question about Small Press then feel free to contact me