Explosive Expression

by / 12/10/09

More than forty New Zealand artists have turned their brushes, cameras and conceptual expertise towards the issues at hand—civil liberty, geo-politics in the wake of 9/11, and the history of colonisation and resistance in Aotearoa. Explosive Expression, an exhibition of homegrown art and activism, will run over the week 13–18 October at Thistle Hall, with a series of workshops and screenings, as well as artist talks. The exhibition culminates in a gala auction (officiated by ex-Green MP Nandor Tanczos and activist John Minto) where the exhibited works will be available for sale on Saturday 17th. It also features several well known New Zealand artists, including opening speaker Tame Iti, and recent exhibitor at the Wellington City Gallery, Ngaahina Hohiha. Wellington artists Tao Wells, Arlo Edwards, Freeman White, Rouge Merlot, Graham Jury and Juliet Jamieson (among others) are also featured.

Proceeds from the auction are to be donated to court costs of those arrested in the 2007 Raids, most of whom are still undergoing trial. Public outcry has continued to follow the Operation Eight arrests, partly due the Bush administration-style methods by which evidence was obtained, but also because there is no proof that any actual violence was intended by anyone arrested, nor were any of the arrestees listed on New Zealand’s register of terrorists and terrorist organisations. Rather, activists and protestors were the target of the raids. Several environmentalists were arrested, including Miriama Mayrick, 24 year old Hamilton jeweler and picture framer, who has spent much of her young adult life touring India performing aid work. Likewise, Tame Iti, the arrestee who faces the most serious charges (he was in possession of three firearms for which he did not have the correct licence), and was directly associated with the Ruatoki “terrorist camps” has frequently been praised by the Tūhoe community for his work with young people—of which the camps were part. Far from teaching terrorism, Iti’s work has been about introducing young Maori to self-reliance, and pride in Maori tradition and heritage (Baden-Powell’s own scouts are up to much the same thing, only their tradition and heritage is British. Also, according to my mild-mannered husband, an ex-Scout from Hamilton, they’re taught to use guns too).

Noted Ngati Kahungunu/Ngati Porou lawyer Moana Jackson has pointed out the inconsistency of the arrests in this regard. Arrests were made, not just on suspicion of violence, but for what that supposed violence was to be associated with—Tangata Whenua self-determination. Mana Motuhake o Tūhoe, the movement for which Iti is a spokesperson IS about self-determination for Maori, but, as he has taken care to point out, at a day-to-day level “[it] is not about creating a separate state, a separate society. Mana Motuhake is something that we live with, every day.” Government representation is a different question, one in which Iti is interested in pursuing, however, it has remained unproven (and a little bit ridiculous) that he, or anyone else arrested on October 15th, was ever planning to storm said government with molotov cocktails.

The 2007 raids continue to occupy a certain ammount of leftist attention (and probably libertarian too) in New Zealand. This is not, as kiwis are so fond of saying, the United States, and we really mean it here when we say we have a democracy. Disagreeing with one’s government is not a criminal offence. The vast majority of arrestees were arrested based on their opinions, which were assumed to give a connection to a series of planned violent actions, actions which have been denied, not proven, and subsequently dismissed by the courts. Dismissed, in fact, to the point where Tame Iti, lead arrestee, was recently allowed by the New Zealand government to tour London with a Te Reo Maori Shakespeare company, while still under charges. Clearly, if the government is expecting overthrow from Iti and his friends, they’re pretty chillaxed about it. We could all learn something from that attitude!

But in the meantime, come and have a look at some art and do stuff! You’re fighting the power even by showing up! And visit the website: october15thsolidarity.info.

Calender of events:

Tuesday, October 13, 6pm. Exhibition Opening with Tame Iti.
Wednesday (evening), October 14, 7:30pm: A celebration of musical resistance featuring the works of Urs Signer, composer, clarinetist and Operation 8 defendant at the Adam Concert Rooms, Victoria University Wellington.
Thursday (evening), October 15, 7pm: Film Screening of ‘Tūhoe: a history of resistance’ and short films about the October 15th raids at the New Zealand Film Archive.
Friday (evening), October 16, 6pm: Meet the artists and hear about their creative resistance at Thistle Hall.
Saturday (daytime), October 17, 12-4pm: Political screenprinting workshop for youth at the 128 Community House, 128 Abel Smith Street. Admission is FREE—bring along your ideas for political screenprinted works.
Saturday (evening), October 17, 7pm: AUCTION NIGHT with Nandor Tanczos and John Minto, as well as food, drinks.
Sunday (daytime), October 18, 1-5pm: Documenting our communities workshop with local filmmakers at Aro Valley Community Hall. Admission is FREE.

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