New Zealand Flag Debate

Here I, as a fiftysomething, white, male, artist New Zealander create a confrontational conversation asking who is and who isn't Tangatawhenua. Many may say that I am not in any position to do so because I am not Maori. I say the opposite, who more than a white male is more marginalised by the currant academic Maori attitudes than I, a supposed guest in my own land? Is it not my responsibility to engage powerfully in this question? I specifically ask this question about the man in the image above, perhaps the best known son of Aotearoa around the World and the woman below, the white one who is perhaps the most loved sporting woman ever to represent her country?

Why, if Ed was born here is he not considered to be a part of the land where he was born and died and why if an immigrant woman. originally from South Africa can represent our international sporting endeavors so enthusiastically and completely is she not accepted into the bosom of our national being???

I say Maori and Pakeha will never be spiritually well until we are all seen and experienced as an integral part of the dirt we all stand on. Many Maori will never be able to be happy at the deepest level while they cannot see me as Tangatawhenua. The mountain we, Maori and Pakeha have to climb is post colonial equality and fraternity!

 

 

Marion Dufresne was killed in 1772. He was the first Pakeha to stop and visit with Maori.

It is said that Marion Dufresne died under a Pohutukawa tree at Te Hue before he was ritually consumed by several local chiefs. In what Cook called this Bay of Islands where Maori/European contact was truly first experienced.

"The different cultural paradigms of the New Zealanders and the French who sailed into these waters over two hundred years ago meant that Marion Dufrezne must be killed...and eaten!"

 

 

His short but enthusiastic stay had threatened to topple the security, financial and spiritual structure of the local societies and their interaction after only 5 weeks of the laissez faire French captain's influence.

 

The simple act of sharpening ships

nails and trading them for some fish

had changed the very nature of time

for local iwi.

 

What might have taken many months of laborious work to create could now be traded for something that took a morning to catch and deliver.

Time itself was entering the neolithic Maori mindset for the first time.

 

Fresh from the tables of France where the Age of Enlightenment had filled DuFresne's head with the ideas of the Noble Savage, he had no real understanding of the way in which tapu bound the societies around him in matters of public law and behaviour.

Dufresne and his men were making serious transgressions on a daily basis.

He was more of an adventurer than the more studious and pragmatic explorer James Cook and a quick demise was the price for a passionate French heart.

Ships logs and local oral history tell us the Maori enjoyed Dufresne and wanted what he had to trade but they did not want the continuing erosion of the rule of law and economic stability in the region.

 

 

"So where are the two paradigms of Maori and Pakeha 240 years later?"

 

 

Back then the difference meant conflict, cannibalism and violent retribution. Of course there has been a convergence but will they keep doing so or are we headed to ongoing misinterpretation of each others ideals.

 

I entered the New Zealand social landscape, born white, in Island Bay, Wellington in 1956.

 

I stared up at this woman every day as a youngster.

 

My dad bought a red and white Mk. II Zephyr brand new

and we flew lambs tails off the twin aerials and held toi toi

out the windows as we drove through the countryside.

 

 

As a Pakeha child in 1950s Wellington I had few ideas about any history of Maori or their needs. The history of N.Z. I got was delivered by Catholics after they informed me, in terrible detail that I was to die and go to hell. So it still seems reasonable to me that I had bigger things on my mind than any gripes people I did not even know were experiencing in a suburb other than my own

 

 

In my earliest memory England was mother and the United States our saviour and ally.

 

We were Gods Own Country and part of the most civilized set of nations

called "The West" and we saved the Jews from those dreadful Nazis.

 

If I was very, very good I just might go to Heaven.

 

Summer was beautiful and life was about chasing white butterflies and shooting

them with the hose and winter was fireside watching "Disneyland" on Sundays.

 

 

I was in touch with the "Happiest Kingdom of Them All".

 

Then came a day of extreme and dreadful truth. It turned out that even though we white people saved the Maori from extinction they were thankless and wanted us gone! My sensibilities were shocked and my fears focused on this last point at the tender age of 7 or 8 and I was very clear about two personal truths and the appalling results these personal realities would manifest in my outcome.

 

I did not want to go and live in England and I did not want to go to mass on Sundays.

 

 

So It was just a matter of time before I was cooked and eaten and then plunged into the eternal flames of Hell.

 

 

Suddenly life was an uncomfortable thing, not the harmless playground I had been thinking. A confusing addenda to this time was the magical afternoon we spent as a family, on holiday, to a Maori village where the children were diving for pennies.

 

 

I was enthralled by the children's smiles, courage and skill as they dived off what looked like a fall to their death. I liked them...but these weirdly wonderful fairy children and their parents wanted me gone!

 

Apart from being "arty" I was a normal Kiwi boy who played rugby and wanted a V8 car

 

and hoped I would someday I come across a stray "Playboy" or "Man" magazine.

 

My mother was angry when my clothes were torn playing bullrush at playtime

and I went to the "murder house" to get my teeth drilled like a colander.

 

My father shouted and wailed at the television at the sight of the Maori invading

Bastion Point.

 

Along with the pinko, lefty, students

in our universities these bloody Maori were going to deliver our perfect little country to hell in a handcart. Dad was diehard Muldoonist and the law and order tack Muldoon was so good at splitting the country with, had him hook, line and voting ballot.

 

 

Like almost every other New Zealander I remember those long lines of police in their white helmets marching in to take the protesters away very well. I also remember and witnessed an underlying and appalling "serve them right attitude" about the young girl who died there. Hard hearted indeed!

 

 

It took me a good deal of working through the facts of this land protest and the Raglan golf course issue to make any informed decision about what are on the surface of it very simple principles.

 

 

The actions of successive government agencies and councils had blatantly over a hundred years, taken through many shameful and unjust mechanisms the Ngati Whatua lands of Orakei.

 

 

This reduced some of Auckland's best to one small section. It was over the last parcel of open land that the protest was initiated. Remember we are talking about land that Maori had donated to a public purpose for which they were demanding it be used instead of sold off for Parliamentary profit. They were keeping this land in stock for all New Zealanders, not trying to take it back.

 

 

This unlawful act was the first illegal protest in over a hundred years of protests by this tribe. But these facts were hard to discern in the media reports and the tut-tutting of white conservative elements to whom public disobedience was an anathema. My father thought the pirate radio Hauraki insurgents should have been sunk and killed!

 

 

Same with Raglan golf course, developed on land which was taken from Maori for an airfield in the war, it was never returned and then fell into private development of a golf course!

 

 

I think Eva Rickard was vilified by the press and in white living rooms all over the country for doing nothing but standing up for what was right and fair. My uncle suffered the taking of his land by the Wellington City Council. They took over 3,000 acres for a "landfill" and they paid him a pittance of their choice and it broke his heart. They used maybe 40 acres of the land and the rest is just as it was when dear old Boz owned it. Seems simple to me, once the original claim is terminated for government use it is only right and just to give it back to the owners.

 

So what was all of the fear and anger about?!"

 

I have been around conservative white people all my life and believe them for the most part to be decent people and I can only assume that they have not taken the time to actually assess the facts in the matter of repatriation of confiscated lands. They also do not seem to have sorted out the proportions of the entire Waitangi recompense being given. We are talking one 10th of the annual superannuation budget! Small price for civil fair play and peace I would have thought.

 

The old "they want to be paid twice because they sold it for blankets but that's tough, blankets were what they wanted." line is too ignorant and is quite frankly shameful in a modern day.

 

 

This ignorance is not and has never been an excuse to be so blatantly biased against the Maori land confiscations, following wars and general degradation of citezens.

 

 

While the middle class might work the justice system as hard as they could to get off a speeding fine and keep their license or hide their money away in trust when business fails they hate the idea Maori have used that same judicial mechanism to seek redress for wrongs done.

 

At 28 years of age I entered the halls of the Auckland Institute and Museum as a design and display technician, hired to help with the redevelopment of the Maori displays. Suddenly I was inside the epicenter of all things Maori and precious. I was working with the most important indigenous treasures still above ground and listening to the oligists who were actually writing the text books on the subject.

 

 

The 18 months following changed my view of my country and the Maori forever. It took no time to notice that the carvings had all been painted with the same brush so to speak.

 

 

They were all rust red and I could see splashes of the red up the walls behind the paintings such had been the abandon with which the national heritage had been settled into one display colour!

 

 

When I was there work started to take some of the paint back to original. Of course once the underlying text of the carving was revealed again it made it all the more shocking that they were painted over in the first place.

 

 

It delivered some understanding to me just how thoughtless the mainstreams attitudes were and gave me a place from which to see the Maori perspective. I discovered that some of the Maori weaving was as delightful to the touch as any fabric I had learned to appreciate in shops such as Saks, on Broadway.

 

I learned that stone-age did not mean stupid.

 

I learned that a finely crafted pre-European mere was a much more perfectly balanced killing tool than a ridiculously oversized version in greenstone for the tourist market. I saw that the learned "oligists" hidden away in their dark little empires of personal power in back of these walls were constantly having to re-appraise the facts they espoused and the dramatically superstitious Maori trying for their part of the cultural empire.

 

 

From time spent with these academic sorts and Maori would-be's I realized that there is no substitute for actually thinking and forming ones own opinion.

 

 

Out in the real world the Waitangi tribunal was starting to bite and the "fiscal cap" and "Tangatawhenua" became media shuttle cocks. This was the time our nation needed to discuss the value of Maori culture and language to our Westernised society.

 

But did we really think about it?

 

Because my memory is of the old Whitie arguments "but Maori ate the Moriori!" and "if they get a reimbursement they should never get social welfare again!" being yelled in the hallways of Remuera and Paratai Drive.

I do not mean to say that silly babblings of racial put down were a one way street as while in the museum I also had to put up with nonsensical ideas such as Maori were a warrior race and Whities were all pasty wimps who could not cope with Maori in a physical sense. There was always the inference that I was really playing with fire touching the potentially deadly Maori treasures I was working to display.

 

My thoughts go to two ideas when confronted with this nonsense, first the dour nature of a people who would continue to immigrate to a land where over a hundred of their early number were taken off a ship and slaughtered for dinner in one night. Hardly a spiritual meal (the excuse many academic Maori put forward for their forbear's proclivity for eating human flesh) and while I am on the subject of racial myth.

 

Hongi Hika, the most gunned up chief of his day, a man who shaped himself after Napoleon was clear that to oppose the Whites militarily was folly and in a more telling modern day point of order I would suggest the make up of All BLack tight fives over the years makes it clear how dour Whitie can get when the games are hard and dark.

 

So aside from these racial tit-for-tats, where was the real value of the Maori legacy to a now sovereign nation in a late 20th century social context? Did we address it at all outside the academic sandwich mornings? I decided that very little conversation that made any sense was going on in white living rooms and that Maori were doing their own thing and fair enough as they had a lot to think through. But while i understood that Maori had to stand aside from Pakeha and label themselves as different for the duration and purposes of the Treaty reparations conversation I was very clear that setting oneself aside as "special" was and always has been a recipe for social disaster and stigma. So, I decided the term I wanted to understand from the Maori language was Tangatawhenua.

 

 

I asked myself if Ed is not Tangatawhenua, not a part of the land in which he was born and where he died and his bones lie in what land is he part of, no land at all? And if the unseen Pakeha in their Remuera living rooms are angry that I would suggest Sir Ed is Tangatawhenua the divide is complete. Maori do not want Pakeha to be Tangatawhenua and the right wing white certainly do not want to consider themselves such! So where is the problem in that? Nothing, if we all desire to remain separate and fractionated... but a nation does not work well when fractured."

 

 

Are Maori losing the real meaning of Tangatawhenua in the nasty battle for political momentum? Has the very fight to retain their heritage isolated them and forced them away from the core values of their cultural truth?

 

Well, I think I am Tangatawhenua and I think it is my prerogative to decide that, it is a spiritual concept after all.

 

I present here the artwork of Gottfried Lindauer and Charles Frederic Goldie. As a boy I always wanted to have the mastery over light that Goldie had but after my museum experience I started to prefer the works of Lindauer who obviously was much more laboured in his craft.

 

 

I recall arriving at a major Goldie exhibition at the Auckland art gallery some years ago and being confronted with one room full of Lindauer paintings and the other of Goldie and one room was a powerful place full of keen, vital faces of a race of people who clearly had an investment in daily life and the other of a sad group of beaten, tired people, posing for what money they might make from a man pushing the romance of a race and culture dying out. The difference in these two artists apart from the European schooling Goldie had received was the land wars.

First say you will enshrine the rights of a group of people, gaining their governance, let them live for sometime having put down their weapons, betray them for the "good of the country at large", vanquish them in the following battles over a loss of power and wealth and trust and what do you know, they sit with their heads in their hands and hit the piss!? Any first hand writings pre 1850 I have read are clear that Maori for the most part, hated alcohol and the drunk Pakeha that came with it. Ironic. Don't think I excuse a pathetic indulgence in alcohol and drugs as anyone elses responsibility than the user but...

 

 

While it is fair to say Goldie ignored some strong young Maori in the political arena his idea that Maori moko and culture was going forever was reasonable. He lived in a time when White was right and the Empire was everything and the lesser understandings were not to be tolerated because of their lack of real use to society at large.

 

 

So it seems pertinent to ask, after the resurgence New Zealand has experienced from those depths of the early 1900s in things Maori such as Te Reo and Kapa Haka, Whakairo and political power if that resurgence itself is a powerful statement of our country's direction in its own right.

 

While it has been easy to bitch and rail against the pesky buggers cutting trees down,

packing a haka at the drop of a hat,

 

occupying land and taking the rest of us outside our comfort zones

 

Maori have, through the years produced leaders of exceptional quality and Pakeha might easily create a more positive view of the Maori struggles for compensation if they became a little more informed about them.

I find myself endlessly grateful that they have worked within the

parameters of peaceful protest and our legal system for the most part.

 

 

I am clear I would be far less reasonable if the shoe was on the other foot and knowing the attitude of most Whites I think that the experience of "The Troubles" in Ireland would have been much more like it.

 

 

I still do not understand the outrage expressed about that mangy old tree in Auckland. It was just a tree.

 

 

A tree is not two children blown up in a bus stop and the statement of attacking a tohunga is so old school Maori, I love it. I think that the way Maori have created and stood for their renaissance is remarkable as is the society in which it has been able to occur. I was so impressed when Tainui expected an apology from the crown along with compensation for lands confiscated but a day later was so disappointed that we chose as a nation to celebrate the winning of some boat races over the settling of a more than hundred year fight for justice! "

 

 

Like Mohammad Ali refusing to fight people "who never called him a nigger" the Maori have sustained a lot of derision for simply standing up for their rights in their own land. Would it be so hard to recognize the tenacity?

 

It was in the Mercury Theatre bar I first became cognizant of the term Tangatawhenua and what it might mean. A talented Maori actor from the North was leaning against the bar and chatting to me as he had a habit to do when he, in a drink driven tirade spoke of his anger about the use of the term Tangatawhenua. He was furious that it was being "cheapened and bastardised" by some Maori in an effort to make political point and to suggest that only Maori were welcome to this status. He said it was a precious spiritual concept that applied to all people who took their material sustenance and gained life because of their connection to this land. He went on to say that even if one was not born here but settled here that that person was part of the Tangatawhenua. I was not so interested in his diatribe as I would rather have been passing comment on the directing style of the new play or the physical style of the new actresses in it but some time later this conversation would pop back up into my mind.

 

While I am an outsider artist and have little time for the art world as such I

soon ran into the concept of "appropriation" once earning a living from painting.

Appropriation might be to take the Maori style and use it for my own

advantage or to make comment of Maori while not being one.

I did not really care as I was painting bi-cultural works at the time on Tapa

cloth and the Island community had no reservation about what I was doing.

 

 

But then this question of Tangatawhenua arrived and from the very depths of my subconscious. I was doodling in my diary while chatting on the phone. When I hung up and looked down at the page a detailed, stylised tattooed face looked out at me.

 

I knew immediately it was that tattooed rat-bag from my youth Hone Heke and underneath the visage I instantly wrote. "Pssst...Hone Heke was a tattooed savage, pass it on, Whitie!"

As I looked into the eyes of the "noble savage" on the page I realized it was time, through my paintings for me to form my philosophy as to who I was in my own land.

 

So started my "Hories and Whities" diary page artworks and my exploration into Maori/European contact.

 

I do not create to be good at art, I paint to find my way and to decide what I think. The artworks, especially in this case are incidental to a process of understanding. They are my map into my subconscious and back out through the historical narrative that lies just beneath the veneer of our daily life.

 

Language is a major part of how we will find our path and that we now have two languages to create our full potential is a bonus in a World where the indigenous language could easily have been dead by now. I was taught all my life that to learn the Maori language as a nation would be a foolish and indulgent waste of time and we would all be better off learning Japanese...but now that would be Chinese... Language is the very basis on which we stand to see our view of everything about us be it art, history or social interaction of any kind. As we work toward a time when New Zealand is genuinely bi-lingual it is at the most basic level that we will look at the word Tangatawhenua and that will be the test of the spiritual side of this convergence of cultures. Once spirituality is based on separateness as for example in the Jewish telling of the Godly imperative where they are the chosen race and the rest of us all second class, bit players to their supremacy in the Lord Gods eyes then truly there is no hope for oneness. The Jews have cast themselves as a race apart and they pay every day for that arrogance. Surely, the true understanding of this word Tangatawhenua and its spiritual dimension is what stands to separate us or bind us and surely we are stronger as one united company of citizens. Is Tangatawhenua not a spiritual understanding for a planet under stress as mankind forgets his place in the order of things?

 

In the same way we have moved on from Ten Guitars

 

to Whirimako Black

 

and from egg sandwiches

 

to feta and rocket salad

 

We must bring a much more sophisticated language to this discussion of who we are all to become.

 

As a White fifty-something male

I admire the work Maori have done in standing their ground and finding a place of respect for their essence and I think it is time for the Whitie to arrive at the table with a little more than tired rhetoric and angry indigence.

 

 

It is time to cutaway the American style of blind tirades broadcasting the party line

 

and say what you want and like and don't like clearly and with more reason than "I am on top so fuck off you bloody Hories." Don't get me wrong here, I am not an apologist for Maori, I just see the facts are being missed and ignorance in a conversation this powerful is a wet, indefensible position. For example I do not think it is for a White male driven parliament to remove Maori seats but I say to Maori, I cannot respect your political power until you remove what are now a racist, apartheid institution. This is a double wammy, it does not side with the conservative view or the maori view, it is a mix of thought.

 

 

As I look at my artwork projected out of this marvel of modern technology I wonder,

can we modernise the way we think or will we just stay in our trenches and talk shit for another twenty years while change happens outside the gate?

 

 

Maori have dodged and woven their way through the maelstrom of

 

 

bureaucracy they were positioned in at the signing of the treaty and like Ali "roping the dope"

 

 

Their long fight is admirable and if the White middle class do not educate themselves then they can expect to be disappointed in what is left for them as they will be seen as the righteous fools who dragged their feet into the most important discussion our country faces.

 

 

It is time they moved with the times.

 

It is the age of much brighter ideas.

 

 

From the very first meeting with Maori there were white and other coloured races who became Pakeha-Maori, accepted as Ariki, Toa and Rangatira in their own right so the idea that we are all Tangatawhenua is as old and as Maori as rotten corn. "

 

 

The word Maori was translated much more like "normal" and the word Pakeha meant 'different". It is a fact that early use of the term Pakeha included Black American sailors and Asiatic Indians so the ideas of "long White Pig etc are erroneous. I suggest it is inappropriate to usurp the spiritual concept of Tangatawhenua as a differentiation. For my part in this conversation I say, I am white and I am Tangatawhenua, it is dodgy for any Maori to tell me I am not for the sake of a political branding exercise. And I do not mean I am fodder to be initiated into whatever any tribes idea of Maoridom is. My tribe allows women to sit where they like and we will make our own choices about our ideals, customs and spirituality, that is the basis on which the democratic tribe is created; equal, we have not perfected that but we work at it.

 

So I ask you to look at this artwork. It is Noddy and the Angry Maori Bigears.

It is my effort to reintroduce angry brown people into children's story telling. Not because it is a way to put the Maori down but a way to ensure he is equal. Golly was removed from Toytown because he was not allowed to be seen shouting at Noddy. This was thought to be a racially unacceptable depiction of Noddy's employer, who was sick of him tooting the horns of the cars in the garage that Golly owned. So, to be racially above board, Dark people were removed from Toytown all together and an old white guy was brought in to shout at Noddy instead. My conversation is an attempt to create a middle ground where we actually accept Golly, appreciate the fact he is an employer, understand he gets annoyed at naughty boys and be happy about the fact that stories like Noddy had little white children cuddling black dollies... surely an adequate introduction to the notion of equality and an argument that it is also a very early lesson in not fearing the dark people... But, the interesting thing about my decision to create this image is that I am White and I am saying it is okay, in my World to have a Maori dolly be pissed off. So I am insisting on my right to think and participate in the racial debate without having to be politically correct or in some way second rate citizen that non Tangatawhenua status subtly suggests I am. Not being tangatwhenua is for many Maori the not so subtle suggestion I am not quite as part of the nation of my birth as they might be. I might not have the spiritual depth, the deep, internal gravitas that an "indigenous" person would for example have. It is a form of apartheid, an attempt to remove me from the deepest connection I might have to my land. It is a crock to put is in the clearest language I can, understanding that simply being indigenous does not make a person special or right and it never has.

But I want to say to Pakeha , that if you wish to remain ignorant of the facts, not participate in a growing wellness conversation toward a hybrid cultural outcome that looks to unite with Maori in a clear detente aimed toward a powerful financial and social and spiritual outcome then you can expect little because Maori are not ignorant about what happened here, they are only too aware of it.

While it may seem I lean heavily toward the Maori agenda, I only do that because my agenda is the conversation of peace, truth, fraternity.. cornerstones of a society that has a strong lifestyle for all it's members. I am clear that many Maori also have deeply ingrained prejudices to rid themselves of if they are to find their way to a love of their Pakeha tribe. But that is their journey. It is essential for both Maori and Pakeha to understand that individual Pakeha are not and never have been the crown. My father was born in Alexandra. At five he was stealing food from the homes nearby to help his mother feed lodgers as his father had left the family home such as it was. At eight he and his nine year old brother were passed off to a local farmer by their father. Dad was clear that the farmer was very violent and that he and his brother slept in hessian sacks in an un lined tin shed on the Otago plains right through winters. He did not go to school for any real period and his first paid job was on Mount Cook at the age of twelve. He did not get the chance to be hit for speaking his language at school, I did though, I got slapped silly, caned and whipped with various leather straps for speaking my language at school. Speaking any language was not allowed unless you were asked to speak...... I am clear that my father did not have any more opportunity in life than any Maori lad in the far North today. I think he had far less. He certainly lived in a lot less comfort because at least the North has a kind climate and Kai Moana. But, for all his faults, he forged a life and created a business and gave me a chance in life. I do not believe for one minute that a Maori man here in this country is born with no chance to be whoever he wants because he is Maori and his lands were taken. There is one thing that might be in his way and that is his upbringing and a belief structure he might have been taught, just what might stand in the way of any other person. I have no Maori land, I did not take any Maori land and I am happy to work and create cash for the reparations, such as they are for the land taken in betrayals of the treaty contract. I believe that the Maori had a catastrophic collision with colonization which has left many with a broken heart. But I am not available to listen to the idea I am in some way less than or to blame for the ills of Maori. I am Pakeha, I created my own business which an awesome Maori woman now runs for me. The little I have I have worked for and when I was on a benefit my World was constructed out of inorganic collections.

We all know that Maori have a high percentage of challenged children. It is the responsibility of every Pakeha and Maori to help that percentage fall to at the very least an even one with that of any other citizen. I suggest to all Pakeha an attitude of positive action toward Maori children and their chances in life. If all you can give them is a smile, make it that. If you can find a little more then do that or give that. As for Maori, I ask you to look to your children, to love them and give them a belief that they are in their land and have every chance to have a great and happy life. not because they are Maori but because they live in a secular, democratic meritocracy where if you push your luck and pull your weight you can be free and achieve anything.

 

 

The time of the Ngati Pakeha is here and if the nation is to be one I say that idea is the first step in a new, more sophisticated understanding of who we all are and how we might turn the wheel of colonialisation full circle. This attitude is one of moving toward a union of minds which encompasses the peoples of this land Aotearoa, a name and myth which was devised by a white guy by the way.

I have invented Aotearoaland in my artworks... it is a place where the divided join and where a middle road where a hybridity is discussed and created as we form a nation we all want that we enjoy and defend together. It is a notion of the "Third Space", not Maori, not European, but hybridity, the extra chromosome... Evolution of people and culture.

 

 

P. S. This is a growing statement and so will grow and change as I work my way through my thoughts and the thoughts of others who challenge and chat with me about it. Arohanui and Kia Kaha. Lester Hall