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Memory as a Sense of Place: Migration and Narration in Whanganui, New Zealand 

Suzanne Macauley


I came on what they call an LSD trip, which is Look, See, and Decide. That’s what they call it! I was like her [his wife’s] … her satellite camera because I had to go back to South Africa and memorise everything that I had seen (Andrew Brown, interview with author, Whanganui, New Zealand, 15 March 2001).

This article focuses on the process of remembering through the dynamics of narration. Material for analysis is based on my longitudinal study of an immigrant sector of global diasporic academic and medical professionals in Whanganui, New Zealand. In terms of a different and richer conceptual perspective, I treat these narratives as “artefacts”, as well as performance texts, which evoke meaning from the creative processes and aesthetic practices of the art of storytelling. As sensory artefacts (verbal, aural, emotional, kinaesthetic), these performed narratives are analogous to containers of memory such as tangible objects like photographs and journals in the interpretation of their layered meanings. The process of narrating memory in terms of multiple perspectives of place emerges as a crucial theme of this study. For example, Andrew Brown’s statement of creating memories for the future contrasts with the usual practice of recollection of the past. His reconnaissance visit to New Zealand from South Africa anticipates and gathers memories to share with his wife. He collects and stores mnemonic information in light of their future emigration, while still gauging present realities in both countries. Other narrative themes pertain to creating a temporal sense of place through memory-making by conjuring past and present meaning in light of forecasting the future.