As Lana’s recent article read, there is no denying that ‘decolonial discourses are so hot right now.’ She raises some critical points about how decolonialism is being viewed with regards to wider criticism and practice in Aotearoa. Let’s elaborate on this. What is the potential detriment of this ostensibly sudden but enthusiastic pique of decolonialist movements?
Imma be straight with you – I’m not bagging this charged-up movement – I too am a bandwagoner, hence me seizing this opportunity to write about it. For one, the popularity of these movements have apparently been successful in democratising decolonisation narratives. The exponential growth (measured from my Twitter and Facebook newsfeed) of mentions, hashtags and general awareness regarding race relations in (primarily) the USA, and New Zealand is evidence that decolonial narratives are making their way into the mainstream, even if they are sometimes misinformed. Yet what concerns me is the potential decline of this boom – like pop culture fads: yo-yos and bindi-wearing – I fear that the ‘so hot right now’-ness of decolonial discourses risks the movement losing credibility, potency and stickability in Aotearoa.
What can be done to prolong meaningful and accessible discussions about decolonialism? The answer lies somewhere in between accessible education and effective leadership. We need to be educated and to educate our tamariki about real concerns that colonial culture draws out of the soil. Individuals and groups who are well-versed in these concerns need to actually stand-up for the cause and not be afraid to align themselves with a viewpoint that is potentially disruptive to the outdated architecture of hegemonic postcolonial discourses. We need to lead thought upwards and outwards instead of attaching it to the tunnel vision that projected itself out of the 60s.Activism needs rebooting. It’s like, yeah the Windows 3.1 was great and all, but it’s not equipped for the internet.* Let’s take 3.1, revamp the fuq out of it, and then discard its shell but still hang it on a wall or the mantelpiece because we love it dearly.
Currently, this is happening in some communities – my own Pacific Island writers’ community is full of these leaders and voices. But it needs to be built on. Our Aotearoa youth are vastly influenced by American celebrities and culture – so while it’s damn amazing that Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monae and Nicki Minaj are major voices in #BlackLivesMatter and associated movements, the engagement of young PI and Maori youth within protest and radicalism is misplaced. Partaking in this conversation is a form of protest – but voices need to be louder, more fervent.
What’s great about the popularity of protest and decolonial movements within non-academic, non-radical, pop-culture circles is that we’re in a prime position to seize the zeitgeist and use it to the advantage of our own marginalised peoples. Of course I’m in solidarity with the plight of Black Americans. Of course I’m in solidarity with the plight of all marginalised cultures who have suffered at the hand of colonisation. Which is precisely why I’m so concerned with our Tangata Whenua- our Maori; our Pacific Islanders; our POC (people of colour) who AREN’T considered equal. Whose lives DON’T matter as much as their Pakeha counterparts.
We can save decolonialism from pop culture ephemerality and really make it matter, but we must act quickly, and we must utilise the influence of our leaders. Who will lend their brain to the future of Aotearoa? Who will put their name on the line?
Notes: *Don’t quote me on this – I actually know nothing about computers.