A chorus of voices combine to reclaim the story of Teha-amana, muse and child-bride of artist Paul Gauguin, and subject of his painting 'Spirit of the Dead Keeps Watch'. Set in Tahiti, the book interweaves exquisite retellings of Polynesian origin myths with troubling colonial power abuses behind the painting. Familiarise yourself with the artwork before reading if you can, as this makes the book's multiple voices resonate even more profoundly.
I want to get up now. Want to pick my dress up from where it fell, to pull it over me, to cover myself. But I know not to. I cannot, must not, because you are making me, and I must have your permission first. To rise, to move even a finger, to uncross my ankles, straighten my arm, to arch my neck so it creaks like the hollow trunk of a bamboo read, to wash the sleep from my eyes.
You will tell me not to move, to stay like that, and keep on looking at you. You will ask me what I am thinking. You will snort like a pig, when I reply, nothing. Nothing, you will repeat. Yes, you will say, it is better that way. I'll put some thoughts in your head. And this is the story you will tell.