All posts filed under: On Culture

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 …

Flagging the Debate

With so many issues of political importance – the TPPA, sale of state housing, child poverty, and charter schools – considering the nation’s drapery seems almost immoral. The flag debate is political distraction par-excellence (as illustrated by our patron saint of topical comics, Toby Morris). Nothing will absorb the nation’s scant interest in politics like a debate over national aesthetics, and our media landscape simply isn’t capable of supporting a meaningful debate. The powers-that-be know this; the flag debate is carefully crafted political anathema. The flag debate is an aesthetic ploy, not a deeper meditation upon the meaning of New Zealand nationhood. The flag could have been tied to a larger conversation around Crown-sovereignty and the possibility of establishing a republic. The process might have taken ten years, but at-least substantive issues would have been propelled into the public domain. Instead, the terms of the flag debate have been kept strictly aesthetic, and the nation re-purposed into an unruly focus group trying to agree on a favourite colour. There was one problem right from the …

So hot right now? What about next week? – Saving decolonial practices from tokenisation and ephemerality.

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 …

An Area of Darkness, Child Trafficking in Mumbai

The statistics on child trafficking in India are staggering. But, this is a small portrait of one person, Nazim. He was thirteen years old when his parents sold him to the overseer of a work gang on a construction site here in Mumbai in 2010. This construction site happens to be part of our apartment complex. I first met Nazim when I saw him eating alone in the stairwell by our apartment. I would see him there everyday and we started to chat. It took three months of casual small talk before we actually communicated in any depth. As it turned out, my mother was from the same economically deprived part of India as Nazim, Uttar Pradesh. Only a few months earlier I had been talking to a police constable on the ins and outs of Mumbai life when he’d warned me about the morally low people of Uttar Pradesh or U.P as people call it here. This advice came from the same policeman who had happily taken my money to get an official piece of paperwork processed without causing “tension in the system”. His warning …