All posts filed under: On Culture

I too am Auckland

In the beginning of the week I watched the video I too am auckland where pacific islander and maori students at Auckland University are interviewed about their experience of attending the institution. Pretty much all the students who spoke had been in uncomfortable situations where they felt discriminated against because of their race and living in South Auckland. It made me think of my years at art school. I never felt discriminated against because of my race or area code because like the students in I too am Auckland I’m from out South and of Polynesian heritage. What I did feel though particularly in my first year of undergrad was a disconnection between myself and my peers. My unease and inability to feel like part of the group stemmed from many things – I was the only Samoan in my year group, I had come from a high school that was a decile one and although I can’t be certain I doubt any of my peers went to primary school with christmas paper used as …

Extinct (and Dormant) Volcanic Cones of Tāmaki Makau­rau

In Year 5, I made a papier-mâché volcano that spewed the usual mix of baking soda and vinegar. This primary school experiment seemed less arbitrary in Auckland. I lived in a residential neighbourhood that had it’s own volcano, the mountain leant an air of possibility to my frothing paper stack. Maungawhau / Mt Eden At 643 feet above sea level, Maungawhau is the highest point in the Tāmaki isthmus. Edmund Hillary trained for Everest on the slopes of Maungawhau by strapping six tires to his back and trekking up and down the Mountain. The young Hillary had to find a way to compensate for the difference between suburban Maungawhau, and the Himalayan Everest. A difference of 28,386 feet to be precise. Maungawhau may not be as tall as Everest -­ or even little sister Rangitoto – ­but in Auckland’s Volcanic Field, the Mountain is none­-the-­less important. The bowl­-like crater of Maungawhau is tapu, and access is prohibited by a fence and Council signage. Prior to the Council’s clamp down on access into the crater, the contours of …

Arriving in ANZ

On my trips to Āpia from Narrm Melbourne on Air New Zealand, the plane often alights in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Sometimes I stay a few hours, other times, a few days. A few years ago, I was entertained by the Rugby World Cup-derived safety and promotional presentations. Similarly, the Lord of the Rings version when the film trilogy was first released was of interest. And then the novelty wore off. As a Sāmoan Persian Australian artist, curator and citizen, language and its politics are significant to my practice and outlook. I’ve often looked to contemporary artistic and linguistic practices in Aotearoa New Zealand for what could be possible in Vanuatu, Kanaky New Caledonia, Sāmoa, and Australia where I currently live and work. Kohanga reo, wānanga, bilingual Māori-English naming of government departments, arts institutions, Māori Television and Te Reo channels, the Treaty of Waitangi 1840 and the settlements process, strong Māori and Pacific representation and agency following sustained oppression and protest, are in our minds across te Moananui a Kiwa. At some point, aggressive cultural homogenisation …

Forecasting Reo: Proof that we’re still a colonial nation.

I was explaining to a friend from Narrm Melbourne about this yearly phenomenon. It still baffles me. While it might be totally politically incorrect for me to say this, I’ve been addicted to TV One’s Breakfast show since Paul Henry was the host. My love of the Breakfast broadcaster has highlighted a growing concern. Every year during Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori language week) the weather report includes a consorted effort to incorporate more reo Māori. Simple things, like Auckland becomes Tāmaki Makaurau, Christchurch becomes Ōtautahi, and so on. Unless you are completely geographically inept it makes little difference to the overall understanding of the weather. Really it’s a token gesture by TVNZ to embrace our countries 1st language, one week of the year. And yet every year during that same week I watch the complaints roll in. “Why is the weather being read in Māori? We speak English here.” And then I remember that I live in a country where bigotry is alive and well. A couple Wednesdays ago I opened Facebook …

Education Programmes

Tuesday night walking home from the Papakura train station, I encountered two boys between the ages of 10 and 12 about to have a fight. One was yelling abusive things. I can’t remember exactly what, but the words fuck you, motherfucker, and cunt were all used in some shape or form. The other young boy threw stones in retaliation. Perhaps he was the instigator? I wasn’t sure. I stepped in and told them both to “stop it” and “go home” in my cut this shit out I’m tired aunty voice and with some coaxing they did. I’m bringing up this story because as an education intern I think about how the institution can be more than what it is and how my programmes can engage the community in a meaningful way. I mean, it might already be engaging the community but how can it be better? It’s all well and good ticking the diversity box for funders. You can bring in different groups, talk about the conceptual framework of the exhibition and run workshops – …

Political Statement regarding ‘Vandalism’ of GAYTM

Tena koutou, On Thursday night our group “Queers Against Injustice” targeted an ANZ GAYTM with pink paint symbolising pinkwashing, attaching an accompanying manifesto outlining our reasons. When we woke up we found articles by the NZ Herald and Stuff.co.nz reporting the GAYTM had been attacked with white paint and quoting passers-by as being offended at the homophobia implicit in the vandalism. This “vandalism” was represented as unethical and homophobic in all media representations. The perpetrators were described as “ignorant” and “intolerant”. All the reporting on the GAYTM ignored the political nature of this “vandalism” and framed it as homophobic.  This misrepresentation happened through a lack of awareness on the part of the reporters supported by probable concealment of the accompanying message by ANZ, who tweeted a photo of the GAYTM with the poster on the ground. Pinkwashing, a term we defined and outlined in the attached poster, describes the way that institutions co-opt LGBT struggles to distract from and disguise unethical behaviour. We targeted the Ponsonby GAYTM firstly to draw attention to the commercialisation of the Pride …

A view from the other side

Like anyone who leaves this country for any amount of time, the feeling of deflation upon return is often frustrating. Admittedly, I’d been spoiled for choice when it came to perusing art on the Continent. And yet I was rather exasperated that cultural perceptions in Aotearoa still remained archaic. Like any nation with a history of cultural evolution, the two dominant narratives seem to revolve around migration and the working class. Social and economic factors have a direct impact on art making and spectatorship, and while a lot of advances have been made, these narratives are as yet still unfolding. Somewhere along the way with the rebranding of New Zealand as a multicultural nation, there also seemed to be an overzealous stating of difference. The most obvious example would be the identification of Pasifika art as a distinct field. Among my contemporaries are artists who no longer belong to the generation who remember home as another place. Which is not to discredit artists who draw on their cultural heritage, but it seems this has become …

Glad it’s on? 

Since finishing art school, I find myself watching a lot of TV. Recent viewing includes; a Cliff Curtis documentary on Marae, episodes of Billy T James on Sunday Theatre, to my personal favorite; Kristies Handmade Showdown, featuring “pigs intestine caramelized onion”. Some of which I enjoyed contemplating. The black box offers relief. TV offers a mimic world, a scheduled consumer orientated paradise where I am expected to be passive. Perfect. Sometimes I don’t want to think. I’d rather immerse myself in a digital form of human existence, a space of vague connectivity to those around me. Never fully absorbed, my TV mind is disrupted by voiceless thoughts. The bubble effect of the art institution is gone. Now what do I do? I’m a contradiction on an unbalanced foundation; nonetheless it’s somewhat pleasing. This is exactly how I feel right now. How do I counter my inner struggles? Since graduating, I find myself yelling at the TV as certain ads skillfully use all the necessary tactics for enticing consumerist behaviours. The colour coordination between the product …

Playgrounds of the Liveable City

There is a James K. Baxter poem called The Bay, in which the writer laments his lost youth while revisiting his childhood beach. Until recently, Baxter’s inertia was simply a literary memory; a moment taught to me in high school. Finally, I have found my own bay. There’s no sand, water or thistle shrubs, but the distress between site and memory feels the same. A quick edit of Baxter’s title line, and the feeling is caught. I remember the [playground] that never was And stand like stone and cannot turn away. My childhood playground – nestled in Myers Park – was humble as any, its construction was crude; wood and steel bound together on a bed of bark. A classic of the post-war generation, Myers Park playground allowed for few extravagances. It seems natural to attach the same reverie and nostalgia to a playground as Baxter does to a beach. After all, playgrounds are among our first interactions with the built environment. For young urbanites, these sites become a conditioning of youth, a system en-lieu …