© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2019-2023. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows:

how we remember ‘colonial legacy’ : the Marmaduke George Nixon obelisk, Great South Road, Ōtāhuhu

Nixon obelisk, Great South Rd, Tāmaki Makaurau. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

‘Photographer Bruce Connew: NZ’s colonial memorials’. Excerpt from Kim Hill Interview with Connew, Saturday Morning, 11.40 am on 19 December 2020

…K.H              Let’s just talk about one of the pictures we have up on our web page. It is part of a gravestone to Marmaduke George Nixon who commanded colonial defence force cavalry. Interesting reference to Nixon in an essay within your book by the historian/curator Dr Rangihīroa Panoho, who says that New Zealand should not try to sanitize this unflattering history. Don’t remove that Ōtāhuhu memorial to Colonel Nixon, for example, how else will we learn? Do you share that view, presumably?

B.C      Yes, I do share that view but it was interesting when I came up with the idea for this project I wanted someone to write an essay. The very first person I thought about was Rangihīroa and contacted him and he agreed. But what I wanted to do, maybe this is the Pākehā boy from Panmure, I wanted to photograph separately [my emphasis]. I didn’t want him to see what I was photographing. I didn’t want him to discuss what I was photographing…

K.H      So his essay is not a commentary on your photos

B.C      Absolutely. So [that was] what I wanted, although at times he has found it a little bit awkward. He has written beautifully. It will make you cry. But…I didn’t want to see it until it was bound in the book. Two things there. One, I didn’t want it to influence me in the way I responded to what I found because I was on a mission to find what was out there and what it might mean. I wanted him to write without me trying to influence him. It had to be completely his. I was determined and I didn’t read it until the book was bound and I was completely blown away. [I] could see that we crossed over in places – Māori/Pākehā – quite different cultures but we brought similar ideas together.

K.H      And it’s a really timely book because we seem to have reached some peak colonisation talk in this last year. People, and this is around the world not only in New Zealand, have this prescient view. To you it feels like this was the continuation of your career.

B.C      It’s the way it worked out. It was the next thing. There was discussion as the [Civil War] monuments started to come down in the US…whether the monuments here should be pulled down or turned away and that is what Rangi is referring to in his text. There are two things out at Ōtāhuhu. There is the 8 metre tall monument. He was a very popular army man at the time. New Zealand loved him. But he was also part of the militia which went out and killed people. There is also a gravestone in front of that monument and that is where that photograph is from – Grafton Gully. He is one of the few who was disinterred and the remains put out at Ōtāhuhu. He was involved in a pretty bad moment in the war.     

This small blog is a belated response to a portion of the above RNZ interview which I just played back. The reference point to the conversation is the section of my essay below and of course to the contentious and ongoing debate as to whether George Marmaduke Nixon’s Monument should be removed from its current Ōtāhuhu location (despite the Auckland Council’s response in 2017). I refer to Nixon directly in my essay and this is picked up on in Kim Hill’s commentary. However, my reasons for wanting these kinds of monuments to stay in position isn’t just the point I make about reminding future New Zealanders about our dodgy colonial past. In the very first paragraph of the 2nd section of the essay I lay out my understanding of whakapapa and the way that history is layered. Yes, I am quoting Orwell but it is really just because he describes it so well. History is a palimpsest. I believe, and I tested this theory to a large degree in my book MAORI ART, that the best kind of palimpsest is the one that shows all its layers – the accretion of the good, the bad and the ugly. That is our mixed up past and to try and hide it away in a museum or a library or in our pronouncements about people’s behaviour is a very poor legacy we leave unresolved for future generations. Kim Hill noted that an Ōtāhuhu resident, who saw herself as educated, felt the monument should be removed. Her reasoning was that we wouldn’t want a statue of Hitler in our midst. Everyone should be allowed to express their opinion but I do wonder whether the Auckland resident considered Germany’s Erinnerungskultur and the Nazi predicament that continues to haunt leaders and common people alike even to this day. See, for example, one commentator’s view of Chancellor Angela Merkles legacy as a leader.

All German post-war chancellors have been committed to a “culture of remembrance” (Erinnerungskultur) that remembers the Holocaust and its victims and accepts the responsibility to transmit knowledge of the crimes to younger generations. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s constant and consistent commitment to furthering a culture of remembrance has stood out.

Grappling with such a serious legacy is still there. Burying a monument, judged by a particular generation to be politically incorrect, in museum storage or perhaps on display or, worse, erasing the public memory of the momument (or possibly destroying it) does not help the public view, interpret or understand why it was once valorised by earlier generations of the same public. Seeing and engaging, rather than imagining, the physical remains of our ‘colonial’ legacy may very well help us better understand it.

Panoho, part of essay for Connew’s ‘A Vocabulary’

E KŌRERO ANA KEI ROTO I TE KORE ‘SPEAKING INTO THE VOID’, the 2nd section of an essay written for Bruce Connew’s ‘A Vocabulary’, Vapour Momenta Press, 2021

There must be a way then to speak into the complex layers of this past where family and tribal members are both loyalist and ‘rebels’ and where leaders serve very different tribal and Crown agendas at the same time. Perhaps an adaption of the British novelist George Orwell’s palimpsest might be useful here. In his historical allegory Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwell said, 'All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary' Rather than the authoritarian erasure Orwell describes the printer’s palimpsest might prove more utilitarian. Here the past might be thought of as not so much erased but as rendered translucent. Each layer of time builds on the previous and collectively it allows a peering-through process to take place.
                                                 Panoho in Connew 2021: 31 

I Will Need Words

dendroglyph, bamboo at Tā Hori Kerei, Givernor’s Mansion, Motu Kawau, Hauraki Gulf

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020-2023. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows:         

ranghīroa, ‘Melanie Picked big Leaf‘, [student graffiti on native leafs] Manoa Campus, University of Hawai’i, January 1999
‘Stupid x3 Marco’, Dendroglyph, Ngā Mara Hainamana o Kirikiriroa, 2021

He Kōrero Tairitenga

Te Uru, Waitākere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, 13 February 2021

rangihīroa, Ātarangi, Hato Mikaere, Ōhaeawai, tata atu ki te Pū o te Wheke





rangihīroa, Northern Wars, 2020, coloured inks on paper, matai me Japanese cherry

rangihīroa, ngā parekura o Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua, Ruapekapeka, 1845/1846
rangihīroa, The Road to Ruapekapeka, 2020
He rua tūpāpaku mō ngā hōia Ingarihi i hinga ki te parekura kei kōnei
St Michaels, urupā, Ōhaeawai, 2021


publicity Maori Art book

Tafanua as a kōtiro, Hunua Room, Aotea Centre, 14 July 2022


Performance and hākari ‘feast’, Hunua Room, Aotea Centre, Tāmaki Makaurau, 14 – 23 July 2022 Directed by Tausani Simei-Papali’i and brought to life by Tala Pasifika Productions and Pacific Women’s dance collective Ura Tabu. Costumes: Shona Tawhio.

I attended the first showing of ‘Tafanua’ last night at the Hunua Room with my wife. The whole performance was deeply refreshing. I would go so far as to say ‘Tafanua’ was a spiritual experience because of the values you could feel being gently pushed at one as an audience. If fa’a ‘the Samoan way’ (i.e. culture) is based on the principles of alofa ‘love’, faaaloalo ‘mutual respect’ feosia’i ‘reciprocity’, fetufaa’i ‘sharing’ and felagolagoma’i ‘mutual support’ then I sensed, without fully being able to explain why, these values or tikanga were present and bubbling. There simply isn’t any other way to describe it and we, Aucklanders, are lucky to be at the epicentre of a creative performance fabric that is being woven before our very eyes on our stages. Go and see this performance, it will move you and you will be confronted with the challenge to interact with these wonderful performers. Go and support the ongoing development of these extraordinary outpourings of creativity and generous sharing of wānanga, Samoan narratives, legacy, tā rātou kupu ‘their stories’. It’s only on for a short 4 nights from tonight. Don’t miss out (14 Jul – 23 Jul 2022). Plan an evening in town, it is 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 20 min interval. Parking is available at the Civic Centre (Entry from Greys Ave) and the venue is the Hunua Room, on level 1, Aotea Centre.

ĀTĀROA, Mahara Gallery, Waikanae

Mark Amery ‘The Dominion’, Wellington 14 August 2021

William Dart, Review, (Editor for Art New Zealand) February 2021
John Hurrell, Review ‘A Vocabulary’ for eyecontact social media site dedicated to critical commentary on NZ visual art

Bruce Connew, A Vocabulary, Vapour Momenta Press


Book signing today with photographer Bruce Connew and writer Rangihīroa Panoho. Connew’s accompanying exhibition of photographs and the artist’s book available at Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ. Copies of ‘A Vocabulary’ sold out on the night, these are part of the next batch from the binders.

Who said people aren’t reading or buying books! This one is beautifully made. A gorgeous thing. Typography and exhibition design by Catherine Griffiths. Cloth, case-bound, 604 pages, section sewn, round spine, ribbon


© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020-2023. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission.  Details for writing to the author are as follows:          

written for the opening of Bruce Connew, ‘A Vocabulary’, Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi 12 December 2020

E ngā mate. Ka mahara tātou ki ngā mumu Māori e takoto ana kei raro i ngā parekura o ngā pakanga whenua o mua. Haere, haere, haere. Haere ki te poho o te Atua, haere ki Hawaikinui, Hawaiki roa, Hawaiki pāmamao.

rangihīroa, Hato Mikaere, Ōhaeawai

The parekura
sits silent
no noise at all
just the chatter
of a tui
wrecking putiputi
down by the hall
just the wind
across the fertile plains
he swore he heard their
voices around
Ngāi Kuku’s last remains
down by the river
where the fighting pā
once stood
or was it just the twittering of
in the woods
the scale of the loss
disgusted him
it explained why he refused
the spirit path to Rēinga
instead he would choose
to guard over
bones and taonga
and mourn unmentioned loss
hidden from a nearby cenotaph
that counted not the cost
raised to his last battle
near fields where he toiled
he read the text again and again
as if it would reveal
some other truth or meaning
that might possibly transcend
a vocabulary of forgetting
bronze letters that won’t bend
colourful adjectives
murdering rebels, barbarous savages

he struggled with the message
they were a people worth forgetting

Indeed not a word
of his hapū’s bravery
not a mention of their name
or that settler greed for land
was largely to blame
for a war no native asked for
how else could one explain
an eternity of loss within
and this deep gnawing pain
and when archaeologists visit
he wishes they’d hear him yell
Haere mai
E hoa, haul your trig over here, man
Yeah map us brother, draft us on that plan
but the grid only measures trenches
so we’ll always be missed
except by manuhiri
that want to take a piss
and summer comes and summer goes
and the pōhutukawa bleeds
scarlet in the morning
10 shades of crimson
when sun retreats

He pōhutukawa ko tahi

He pōhutukawa, e rua
He pōhutukawa, e toru..

Some notes regarding ’10 Shades…

My wife’s people, Te Aupōuri, live near Cape Rēinga in the ‘far North’ of Aotearoa. They along with other Muri Whenua iwi, like Ngāti Kuri, consider themselves gatekeepers to Te Rerenga o Wairua ‘the leaping off point of the Spirits’ at the northern extremity of Aotearoa. Many Polynesian Islands in the South Pacific have these leaping off points. This role of kaitiakitanga ‘guardianship’ at the departure point of ēnei wairua ‘these spirits’ journeying to Hawaiki has created family histories where ghost stories are common. At times the Spirits stop along the way and there are visitations. The narratives told at night of encounters with the spirits are the most frightening and are remembered and passed on with great relish and drama by the skilled storytellers of Muri Whenua.

10 Shades…then , in essence, is a ghost story taken from the point of view of a toa ‘Māori warrior’, he mumu Māori, who decides not to take the path to Rēinga and remains with his whānau and the warriors he fought with on a Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua battefield. In the poem one of the greatest struggles the central character has is accepting a memorial inscription raised near the battlefield. History, so the saying goes, is written by the victors. While this may be partly true these are also the days where indigenous voices outside the majority culture may also contest such histories.

He Huinga Kupu Constructing ‘Vocabulary’ for A Nation

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020-2022. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows: The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues

Catherine Griffiths Cover A Vocabulary
Catherine Griffiths, typography, cover ‘A Vocabulary’

He Huinga Kupu ‘A Vocabulary…’

rangihīroa, Mōteatea ‘lament’, A Vocabulary
Bruce Connew, 'Heke's Pā', A Vocabulary, Te Uru
Bruce Connew, ‘Heke’s Pā’, A Vocabulary, Te Uru, Titirangi, Auckland, NZ

Bruce Connew’s ‘A Vocabulary’. Opening Saturday at Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, Tāmaki Makaurau, AUCKLAND, NZ, 12 December 2020 @ 4pm. The book, preview images and text are available through Vapour Momenta Press, 2021

Bruce Connew, Wakefield…’Author of the System of Colonisation‘, from monument, London, in A Vocabulary, 2020

For the last 2 1/2 years I have been working on text for ‘Bruce Connew, A Vocabulary’, However, both the artworks, my exhibition text and the accompanying book are now available and quietly on show prior to the more official opening this coming weekend. Yesterday, I got a chance to have sneak preview with the support staff at Te Uru, the artist, his partner Catherine Griffiths (the book and exhibition designer) and the Director Andrew Clifford. The show looks as good as I had envisaged it from the printed samples and jpegs that the photographer has been feeding me for many months now. It is a handsome catalogue and a fine looking exhibition. For those who live nineteenth century New Zealand history there are the familiar names in unfamiliar contexts. The monumental text from which these images have been extracted ends up strangely re-formulated. I have often wondered what the revolutionary exchange between Braque and Picasso felt like in Paris in 1907/1908 when a new language of Cubism was being invented. There is something unexpectedly exciting in the framing of monument text that is taking place in Connew’s work. Is it historical short-hand, historical pun, uneasy veneration…? A new vocabulary is indeed in formation…

Connew, A Vocabulary
Bruce Connew, Hori Kerei, ‘Sir George Grey’, A Vocabulary, Te Uru, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ, Summer, 2020
Bruce Connew, Te Kooti/Titokowaru, A Vocabulary, Te Uru, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ, Summer, 2020
Detail, Connew, A Vocabulary
Detail, Connew, ‘A Firm Friend of the Europeans...’, A VocabularyTe Uru, Titirangi, AUCKLAND, NZ, Summer, 2020/2021
Kenny Willis (Kaiwhakahaere Whakaaturanga me nga Whakaurunga, Te Uru) preparing samples of my text, including excerpts from Mōteatea ‘lament’and the essay ‘Ka Kakati te Namu, Ka ora tonu te kōrero ‘the sandfly nips…the conversation continues’ in the accompanying book, ‘A Vocabulary’