All posts filed under: On Culture

Body Hair 

My body has not always felt as if it was my own. For most of my life, it has felt as if it belonged, at least partly, to men. One year during high school, the boys in my class made fun of the hair on my arms. I already felt nervous and ugly around boys. Forgetting to shave my legs, not bothering to shave above my knees, and having hair on my arms and on my stomach (where most of the other girls seemed not to), induced a sense of guilt. I felt as if it was my responsibility to make myself physically attractive to heterosexual and bisexual men, according to the Western beauty standards that had been drilled into me for as long as I could remember. I felt as if my body hair was my fault – that I wasn’t ‘feminine’ enough to please men and it was my duty to fix that. I needed to fit into the arguably prepubescent image of ‘acceptable femininity’ (1) that has been fed to men through the …

Tears into Lemonade

In recent months a substantial amount of social media commentary in ‘progressive’ spaces has been marked by the flowing of ‘white tears’, or Pākehā justifications for racism. This type of symbolic violence reveals an ignorance on the part of passive or well meaning Pākehā that must be challenged if these spaces are to become safe for all people. For many, Waitangi weekend is a time to highlight a history of Aotearoa that is desperately pushed aside by mainstream Pākehā society. A history of colonial theft, exploitation and genocide. It is a time of dissent and resistance, reminding those intent on forgetting, that this history lives and breathes. It is also a time when the most explicit racism that exists in our society comes to the fore. Babbling, defensive Pākehā, faced with the reality of our belonging and history in this land, go to great lengths to silence the truth and maintain the collective amnesia that so comfortably upholds the status quo. It is also when the music festival Chronophonium is held. The festival attracts, it’s …

Musings on Death

I recently acquired a carte-de-visite from a Wellington store which specialises in stamps, postcards, and ‘old photographs’. For those of you unfamiliar with the carte-de-visite (or cdv), it’s a type of photograph patented by Andre Disderi, in Paris, 1853. Disderi invented a camera with multiple lenses, enabling subjects at his studio to leave with a selection of portraits, printed onto albumen paper and mounted onto separate cards of about 6.5x10cm. Easily reproducible, the cdv was intended for distribution to family and friends, and usually collected in albums designed for that purpose. This new addition to my cdv collection is of an extremely dapper but slightly morose looking young man.  Aged in his early 20s, he slouches in the studio’s padded chair, wearing a suit with a waistcoat, the chain of his fob watch visible. He has a splendid mop of hair that would put Hugh Grant (circa 1995) to shame, and he’d look right at home on the pages of http://mydaguerreotypeboyfriend.tumblr.com. However, for me, the appeal of this photograph was the name of the photographer, …

Nitty Gritty

This is an on-going series that investigates Bella Horlor’s new role as a young mother. An artist and poet, Horlor shares the banal quandaries that exist between artistic and maternal labour. So I have a tendency to get extremely poetic when it comes to motherhood. It really is the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me. But. Humans are messy, humans can be annoying, humans can be hilariously absurd. Having a baby is a concentrated intimate version. For instance, for months I have been unable to leave the baby alone while I go to the toilet, so she has to come with me. I take easily sterilised toys (no plushies) and try keep her occupied and in one place. Now that she can crawl she has become curious about what lies behind the toilet, so I have to fend her off, dangle toys in her face, and protect my limbs from her gnashing jaws. Sometimes she crawls off and I have to try call her back, mid bowel movement, as I hear various things …

Revolution

This is an on-going series that investigates Bella Horlor’s new role as a young mother. An artist and poet, Horlor shares the banal quandaries that exist between artistic and maternal labour.   Lately I’ve noticed my little girl have little baby tantrums. If I’m distractedly tidying the lounge and she wants more attention/ if she’s being manhandled/ or if I take the dirty shoe out of her mouth, she throws her arms in the air and starts slapping her sides while her face turns purple. That, or she’ll throw her head backwards in a comically exaggerated gesture of despair. Sometimes she even growls and bites. I describe her affectionately as a ‘firecracker’ a ‘force of nature’ and as a ‘hell-raiser’. I love that she’s lively, assertive, and inexhaustibly curious. Admittedly, these are also elements of my own temper. I tell her to calm down ‘order in my courtroom’ as my mother must of told me. But I really don’t want her to just be calm. I want her to take that temper and make things …

A Necessary Distance

Traffic had routinely backed up along Tamaki Drive. Single passenger cars hugged the distant bays, a winding conveyer belt of middle class life. I felt optimistic because of the icy blue harbour and Rangitoto Island. I thought it was perhaps one of my last chances to absorb the view. And even so, it didn’t look any different; I only saw the backdrop of our daily commute. Perhaps for my mum, this view looked like the vast space between familiarity and possibility. As we turned onto Kepa Road, I switched radio stations so we could dance in our seats, her fists still firmly gripped at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. She always tells me that she wishes she had become a dancer. In a week she’ll be driving alone and in this same week I will be getting lost on the New York subway, missing the convenience and security of this car. The monotony of these commutes always reminds me of the novel Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick. It is a book I renewed twice and …

Disneyland

It’s a bit full on being in a city who’s modern economy is almost solely built on tourism. The first description of Venice I’d heard from an Italian was in conversation with a student in Bologna, she simply described it as ‘Disneyland’. I took this as a reference to the reduced spectacle, the disposable, factory-made entertainment set out for people who have the money. This sentiment hung around as I experienced my first (and realistically, only) Venice Biennale. The Biennale is broken into three sections. It began as one: The ‘Giardini’, which is the most historic, generally seen as the most important area of pavilions, and was where the Biennale began. The other two sections have been subsequently added over the years. There is the ‘Arsenale’ which is sort of the B team, another ticketed area, and then there are other participating countries strewn about the place in different venues that you can see, generally for free. The Giardini has all the big players; Germany, the States, the UK, France etc. Now, I didn’t expect …

VOODOO Halloween TIKI Party

Tiki mug, tiki mug My face, my mother’s face, my father’s face, my sister’s face  Tiki mug, tiki mug White beachcombers in tiki bars drinking zombie cocktails from tiki mugs The undead, the Tiki people, my mother’s face, my father’s face  The black brown and ugly that make customers feel white and beautiful  – Tiki Manifesto. Dan Taulapapa McMullin. Unpublished Poem, 2011. On Friday morning shit got real. People got wind of Rebel Soul Records Voodoo Halloween Tiki Party and the people didn’t like it. I was one of them. Rebel Soul Records is a newly opened record store situated in the same building as the Samoan Consulate. The store specialises in Jazz, Blues, Soul, Afro, Ska, Reggae, Dub, Punk, Alternative, Hip Hop and Electronica and also stocks collectibles including tiki kitsch.  Their event page tells us that “hidden within Samoa House is a beautiful Fale and is one of K-Rds hidden gems”. It continues to tell us that the Voodoo Tiki theme will include Fire and exotic dancers galore, Samoan BBQ with fire and …

Dinner Party Politics 

FADE IN LANA, MĀORI, SAMOAN, TONGAN ONE, TONGAN TWO with his wife AUSTRALIAN, TONGAN THREE and TONGAN FOUR sit around a table on the rooftop in central Sydney. It’s 4pm and 28 degrees. TONGAN ONE hands TONGAN FOUR another cider. AUSTRALIAN starts talking to SAMOAN… AUSTRALIAN Yea, they’re [Aboriginal peoples] just brought up with such hate. SAMOAN slightly not interested nods. They must be talking about the results of colonial oppression, yea I’m into this.  LANA leans in to start listening. AUSTRALIAN They’re taught to be that way though, like no ones showing them hate, but they just hate everyone around them. Oh shit she’s talking about hate as in the Aboriginal people are the ones who hate the world. Does she mean that they’re like oppressing themselves? She must have no clue about what I do.  LANA calms herself, conscious this is a social situation. TONGAN ONE gives LANA side eye. LANA sees this. I know he’s read my writing on Decolonial Curatorial Practice. Is he telling me disengage?  MĀORI looks away. She’s my …