MaC V HEADLANDS: unpublished responses

HEADLANDS essay ‘MAORI AT THE CENTRE: ON THE MARGINS’

‘First published by the Museum of Contemporary Art Ltd, Sydney, Australia in 1992 in Headlands: Thinking though New Zealand Art, exhibition publication page 122’ MCA

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2018-2021. 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 Dr Rangihīroa Panoho without his express permission. The opinions expressed are the authour's and not those of former employers or industry colleagues. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com 

 

rangihīroa, The Ineluctable Centre, 2017

 

rangihiroa, Pōkākā ‘storm’, 2017
Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.

Voltaire, letter to M. le Riche, 6 February 1770

Headlands is such an exquisitely uncomfortable exhibition that it may not prove popular. But it should be seen, both for the quality of the works and for the way it reveals a darker but more interesting side to our nearest neighbours.

Joanna Mendelssohn, New Views of NZ, The Bulletin, 21 April 1992: 104

Black music has very often been stolen and co-opted by white people. But there is a complexity to the story of the blues. Early blues records had vanished by the 1950s. They were disposable things on their way to being forgotten completely. And it was a coterie of white collectors who rescued them from oblivion. Now there are problems with the white taste for the authentic, and the patronizing way that some of the old bluesmen were dug up and exhibited as authentic primitives.

Hari Kunzru interview with Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson ‘Sjón’, BOMB, 15 May 2017

White man, hear me! History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations. And it is with great pain and terror one begins to realize this. In great pain and terror one begins to assess the history which has placed one where one is and formed one’s point of view. In great pain and terror because, therefore, one enters into battle with that historical creation, Oneself, and attempts to recreate oneself according to a principle more humane and more liberating; one begins the attempt to achieve a level of personal maturity and freedom which robs history of its tyrannical power, and also changes history. But, obviously, I am speaking as an historical creation which has had bitterly to contest its history, to wrestle with it, and finally accept it in order to bring myself out of it.’ 

 James Baldwin, ‘White Man’s Guilt’, Ebony, August 1965

Headlands aimed to present an overview of New Zealand art which opened up ways of thinking, extended knowledge, and shifted this knowledge into new possibilities of awareness. By building on pre-existing notions of the culture and art of New Zealand, this exhibition reflected and reconsidered those judgements, presenting new ideas, and re-presenting the familiar in a new context. 

Museum of Contemporary Art statement, MCA, Sydney web site, accessed 20 December 2017

 

rangihīroa, ‘Wīwī, wāwā ‘scattered localities‘, 2017

 

I have been thinking through Baldwin’s comments. With the past everpresent, musing over HEADLANDS, its many responses, over the decades, means contesting less helpful frames of history many critics have sought to impose and reiterate but seldom to revise. American writer Susan Sontag once confided, ‘Reading criticism clogs conduits through which one gets new ideas: cultural cholesterol. For me various reactions to, not so much my 1992 essay (‘Maori at the Centre, On the Margins…’ for HEADLANDS, MCA, Sydney) but rather to, its authorship, constitute ongoing cultural constriction. Too much has been written, is still being written about me rather than the eleven paragraphs (of a more broadly positioned essay) I penned.

Reading criticism clogs conduits through which one gets new ideas: cultural cholesterol. 

Susan Sontag diary 1964

It would be difficult, unnecessary even, to fractionally respond to these critiques when references to arguments in my HEADLANDS essay have become something of a diversion. Like ‘true north’ its’ position exists in that direction over there: like the angle that one might point one’s house to capture the sun. Immediately after my PhD examination, 2003 novelist Witi Ihimaera (part of the examination panel) breezily described this compass point as a pragmatic reference. The essay he said was one of his points of bearing, out there, on the periphery. For me the edginess of Ihimaera’s remark has deeper resonance. ‘Maori at the Centre…’ has been impaled, muted and neutered. It doesn’t argue back. It mostly offers up a couple of oft-quoted phrases obediently receiving endless re-inscription. If anyone has difficulty understanding this controversial treatment ask the text it saw it all: monologues not discussions, soliloquy not dialogue and silence from, not debate with, the protagonists.

DEBATE: ‘A formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting...in which opposing arguments are put forward...’ Oxford Dictionary

So after a quarter of a century…

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M a C I I I Bulls and Territory

MAORI art Curator: At the Centre, on the Margins
+ Jim Vivieaere (1947- 2011) Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (1943-2014)
rangihīoa, 6 Tahitians, revised on Pukepoto whariki II, 2017
© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2021.
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: 

blueskypanoho@icloud.com

The opinions expressed are mine and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.

PŪRU BULL

Pū : (noun) exponent, indice, power.

Rū: (verb) to shake, quiver, (noun) earthquake, seismic

In the last few posts I started introducing my Māori and Pacific curatorial legacy. I began asking questions about who controls what is presented in our museums, our galleries and in our publications in Aotearoa. How is this information being presented? What is being protected? What do the gatekeepers see is at risk? My view outside a curatorial or academic position is largely that of an observer. My reference points are my diaries, my correspondence, my personal experiences involving reflection in the field, and the areas of enquiry that now attract my interest.

We live in a highly territorialized world...involving the staking of claims to geographic space, the “production” of territories, and the deployment of territorial strategies. In everyday usage, territory is usually taken to refer to a portion of geographic space that is claimed or occupied by a person or group of persons or by an institution.

David Storey, Territory and Territoriality, Oxford Bibliographies, 26 July 2017

r@ngihiroa, B U L L, 2017

All cultures measure territories with lines defining conceptual and/or actual space(s). Lines are not just cartographical. In te ao Māori anything might be mapped and constitute a boundary: a tree, a rock, a maunga, a portion of a river bank, the distance between two eponymous ancestors. At times spaces comprising volume and the edges of land, sea or forest have, throughout Māori history, been ritually set aside or made tapū. English watercolourist Augustus Earle, travelling across Te Tai Tokerau (October 1827-May 1828) observed this phenomenon with pou rahui, carved ceremonial markers on his journeys, that warned visitors to the area. Warnings did not have to involve implanted carvings. In MAORI ART I recount how my uncle was taken, when he was very young, by my great grandfather, Kerei Tito of Tangiterōria, along the upper reaches of the Northern Wairoa River (a finger of the Kaipara harbour system or whanga). Various fruit trees were pointed out, as they walked along the edges of the awa, deliberately planted by tūpuna, to tempt unwise visitors to break tapū placed over the many burial sites hidden in the riverbanks.

Sometimes a boundary line could be enforced by a rangatira when a pou whenua (whale bone rib form partially adorned with carving and also used as a weapon) was placed by the leader in the ground. Lines could involve mediatory edges constituting zones of refuge. At the battle of Moremonui 1807, involving Ngāti Whātua and Ngāpuhi hapū, the Te Roroa leader ‘…Taoho directed Teke an Uri-o-Hau chief, to get close up to the retreating Nga-Puhi, and with his weapon draw a deep line on the sandy beach beyond which none of the Ngati-Whatua taua were to pass in chase. The blood relationship of the two opposing parties gave rise to the wish not to finally exterminate the vanquished host.’ Lines, made or imagined, might signify spaces comprising identity markers in tribal histories, hapū landscapes and the paths of ancestral journeys or the connecting points of ancestral events.

Lines, boundaries and spatial territories appear to have important symbolic significance in the actual practice of western art as well.  Art historian Sir John Richardson (friend and curator of Picasso’s work) attended some of the bullfights the Spanish artist witnessed. The curator remembered the artist turning the event into metaphor. Picasso, he said, so identified with the bull and its minotaur mythology (referenced in Ancient Greek and Cretan cultures) Richardson remembered him saying, ‘If all the ways I have been along were marked on a map and joined with a line, it might represent a minotaur.’

Picasso drawing the form of a bull. Still from Belgian filmmaker Paul Haesaert’s Bezoek aan Picasso 1949. Press on the link for the longer clip showing Picasso filmed action painting on glass from reverse side

The minotaur, considering its whakapapa, is an interesting invention. Neither wholly bull nor wholly human,  it sits as metaphor on the edge of cultural mythology and physical reality. There is something enormously theatrical about this transitional area in the context of the arena. Here the bullfight involves ancestral pagentry, human bravery, brute animal strength and a violent collision of ownership over contested space in the plaza de toros. Who will win? Who will die? The matador runs a serious risk as well. Dressed to kill he\she makes it their business to encourage, through ritualised phases, a powerful and harrassed animal into a dance of staggering danger. They are so close that the gold and silver embroidered cloth of the traje de luces ‘suit of lights’ touches the skin of the animal. This is a fragile zone defended, during the tercio las varas, with nothing but skill, fake bravado and a fluttering piece of two faced cloth: magenta and canary yellow.

r@ngihiroa, el beso de la muerte, 2017. Peter Muller, Costumes of Light, Assouline Publishing, 2013

This story is about staking one’s claim and securing it physically and spiritually. Māori art history and Māori curating has always involved competing spatial territories. This is a story, part memoir/part reflection outlining the way in which different characters move across a space, let’s call it the curated stage of toi tāhuhu ‘Māori art history’, to stake claims involving key areas and opportunities in a field of which I was centrally involved. My narrative, with various acts, entries and exits, is for other academics and/or curators (Māori, Polynesian and First Nation – indeed anyone interested) who may find scenes referenced resonant in their own unfolding careers. My wānanga is my trust placed in collegial strangers with no personal interest in me per se but a great deal of enthusiasm for the intellectual and conceptual territory on which I stood. I regret working with some of those whom I hosted, and with some of those with whom I agreed to be interviewed, and with some of those to whom I offered assistance releasing information and liaising on their behalf with other key stakeholders in the field. I regret trusting these people expecting reciprocity with the same ohaoha accorded them. I found instead the opposite to be the case. What was useful to outsiders, initially, became superfluous even obstructive  later on in their desire to dominate the very same field.

The narrative, from the outsider, usually involves pleasant introductions…

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MaC IV ‘MAORI ART’: Augustus Hamilton and the book that’s always open

 Rangihīroa Panoho 2016-2021. 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 Rangihīroa are as follows: 

blueskypanoho@icloud.com

The opinions expressed are mine and not those of former employers or industry colleagues.

A U G U S T U S  H A M I L T O N

104 years on: the book
that is always open

 

The following entry is an updated version of an article written for a LinkedIn audience in 2013 after documenting the Christ Church yard, Russell with Mark Adams. We were returning to Tāmaki, 22 September 2013, after photographing the Kaitaia Gateway (photo: Mark Adams, Pihirau collection),   in Te Ahu Heritage Museum, Kaitaia for MAORI ART . I realised I needed this essay as a point of reference in the ‘Future Flowerings’ essay, MAORI ART Curator II so I have decided to publish it ahead of schedule. This essay helps explain the longer legacy of trying to write a history of Māori art and it has within it a range of lessons for current generations of writers wanting to write Māori art. It could be considered an extension of ideas covered in ‘Future Flowerings’ and Bulls and Territory This post on the pioneering Dominion Museum ethnologist helps better prepare the ground for a discussion regarding intellectual/curatorial territory and the ongoing delineation of space in the Polynesian Art/museum world – the focus of the next post: MaC V Headlands: unpublished responses

Down the end of a central access path to one of New Zealand’s oldest surviving ecclesiastical buildings – Christ Church, Kororāreka – resides a plump, largely unadorned, funerary stone. Its two simple bronze plaques facing the path remember Augustus Hamilton, (1853-1913). He died a century ago in the summer months researching church records in the North. The kohatu sits as if on outdoor museum display duty. Its own pedestal reminds the viewer a tribute worthy of study lies above. 5 carefully machined marble blocks hold the massive weight. A plaque in English reads indifferently to another in te reo below – the predicament of translation. The Māori text sits horizontally on the face of a plinth block facing out towards the path. The English plaque describes the deceased ‘Director of the Dominion Museum, Wellington, [as] ‘An Eminent Student of Māori Lore, A lover of Nature, an Earnest Seeker after Truth.’

Michael Illingworth, portrait of Augustus Hamilton, bronze statue five years before the ethnologists death in 1908. Behind Hamilton are kōwhaiwhai images reproduced in his voluminous Art Workmanship of the Māori Race

 

Hamilton’s grave is central foreground. Far left is a memorial to loyalist Hokianga rangatira Tamati Waaka Nene. Although Hamilton died at the early age of 50 (while researching in Northland) this particular, now relatively remote, graveyard seems an entirely appropriate resting place for the scientist with a passion for Māori art. Local Māori gifting the land in the early nineteenth century required the church cemetery allow for the burial of both Māori and Pākehā alongside one another. One can pick out the resting place in White’s image. Follow its perspectival entry point leading along the path to the west face of the church. In the left background of the image sits the slightly rough, pocked top edge of Hamilton’s grave. It is positioned against another pou whakamaharatanga ‘memorial.’ A lofty Celtic medieval cross emblazoned with the nomina sacra IHS – the Greco Roman abbreviation for Jesus – stands out. It is dedicated to prominent nineteenth century Hokianga rangatira Tamati Waka Nene.

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Writing the book Māori Art, then painting and curating it

An attempt to clarify what these three approaches (i.e. writing/painting/curating) might mean in the gallery context of the exhibition IOU.

 

Map of ancestral mountain, ko Whatitiri te maunga, ko Te Uriroroi te hapū, Maungārongo te mārae, Porotī te hau kāinga

 

rangihīroa, 15 Islands, 2021

IOU Māori Art the book + exhibition (currently on display at Tivoli, Waiheke Island) is an experimental look at what it might mean to write a book and then paint and curate a show about that book. I could perhaps have retreated into the easy response a number of artists make quoting senior Māori painter Ralph Hotere. His aphorism suggests art should speak for itself. Perhaps it might be said that a book should be left to do the same. In my particular case the publication Māori Art: History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory co-published with David Batemans Ltd is certainly large and detailed enough (352 pages, a large body of images including many specially commissioned ones) in itself to create its own satisfying world.

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