The following poem was a contribution to a panel discussion involving Andrew Clifford, [Director Te Uru], Catherine Griffiths [typography artist], Bruce Connew [photographer] closing and acknowledging the show ‘A Vocabulary..’ and the launch of its book at Te Uru, Waitākere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi, 13 February 2021
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
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.
The parekura sits silent no noise at all just the chatter of a tui wrecking putiputi down by the hall just the wind murmuring 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 piwakawaka 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 refused to count the cost
raised to his last battle near fields in which 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 no mention of their name or that settler greed for land was largely to blame for a war they never asked for how else could one explain an eternity of loss within a deep gnawing pain
and when archaeologists visit he wishes he could yell and call 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 mimi
and summer comes and summer goes and the pōhutukawa bleeds scarlet in the morning 10 shades of crimson when the sun retreats
Some notes regarding ’10 Shades…‘
My wife’s people, Te Aupōuri, live near Cape Rēinga. They along with 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 South Pacific have their leaping off points. This role of kaitiakitanga at the departure point of wairua 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 relish and great drama.
10 Shades…, in essence, is a ghost story taken from the point of view of a toa ‘Māori warrior’ 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.
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
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…