The Hotere Lithograph in Black Rainbow
In his book titled Black Rainbow Albert Wendt uses a lithograph depicting a “black rainbow” by Ralph Hotere and the author even dedicates this work to that artist. The Black Rainbow/ Moruroa lithograph appears in the beginning of the text as a wall hanging in the narrator’s
Scattered around the black rainbow in the lithograph are the numbers one through fourteen. These numbers signify a countdown and throughout the book, the Free Citizen hears the ticking of the Hotere clock in his mind. The Black Rainbow lithograph hangs on the wall in his family’s suite in the Puzzle Palace (178), reminding the reader that the Free Citizen’s time is slipping away. Later, the Free Citizen tells Fantail that “it’s ticking away madly, this clock” (234). The narrator realizes that time is passing quickly into history and that his search is nearing its end. The frequent appearance of the lithograph reminds the reader that the narrator’s own “clock of doom” is ticking as he continues his quest.
In the beginning of the book, the narrator says that his wife “circled the Memorial, with the Black Rainbow held out like an icon, to bless the earth and protect it from the clock of doom that ticks in our pulses” (31). At the end of the book, he says that his wife “started our rebellion against the Tribunal” with the ritualistic act with the Hotere icon. He says, “she’d summoned the agaga of our ancient Dead with the Hotere icon to hold back the doomsday clock; she’d linked us again to the earth and our Dead” (242). Thus, the narrator’s wife, in recognizing history and the past inhabitants of the island, begins the rebellion against the Tribunal, which illegalizes memory and history. Through its countdown the lithograph recognizes time and history apart from the government (the Tribunal), a recognition not allowed in this society.