Exhibition Essays

Reflections on The Asia-Pacific Century

November 2016

A'ohe pau ka 'ike i ka halau ho'okahi. All knowledge is not taught in the same school

Ahilapalapa Rands

Ko te mihi tuatahi, ki te mana whenua ō te whenua i whāngai i a mātou, ko Te Āti Awa.

Ki ngā kaiwhakahaere, Ioana Gordon Smith kōrua ko Emma Ng, i hanga kōrua te wāhi pai mō te hui. E mihi ana au ki a kōrua.

Ki ōku hoa kua whakakao ki te kaupapa, ka mihi aroha ki a koutou.

Ko Ngāti Hawaii, Ngāti Fītī, Pākehā ahau,

Ko Ahilapalapa Rands tōku ingoa.

I’ve been thinking about what makes for a good, facilitated gathering of people. I think about how I enter a space and all the things that I’m bringing with me. Churning in my mind and heart I’m assessing who I know already and what our relationship is, formulating initial thoughts on the people I’m yet to meet (but have googled the night before). What’s the kaupapa of the event? Am I smarter or not as smart as the others who have been invited? If the latter, how will I compensate for that? I’ve been learning te reo, should I do a mihi? Depending on the forum, it's from that space that we engage, minds swirling, a little apprehensive, defensive. How do you then generate conversation and connection?

I’m lucky in that this has been the year of the Noho for me. That’s largely due to the fact that I’m currently studying at Te Wananga o Raukawa, which has seen us participating in four so far.

The other increase I’ve noticed and contributed to is the rising amount of Noho style gatherings within the Arts. This seems to be driven by a desire to seek alternative methods that sit outside of Western institutional frameworks. It makes sense to look to our existing, local pedagogies of Aotearoa and the wider Moana Nui a Kiwa.

One of the things that gets prioritised within these local frameworks are relationships themselves as the primary foundation from which to build, versus residing within the kaupapa only. While the kaupapa for any given hui is generally the main reason to gather together, you have to first acknowledge and make space for how we relate to one another. By acknowledging our subjectivities we then navigate the risk of a purely abstract, conceptual exchange. There is skin in the game. Whakapapa, Whakawhanaungatanga, Manaakitanga / Contextualisation, Relationships, Subjectivity, Reciprocity. In prioritising these things from the outset, you clear the internal and shared spaces and begin to build things through mahitahi.

Although we all came together from different spaces, existing as a PoC within a colonial society means that there is a safety and whanaungatanga in spaces that resist this. Instead of defending ideas, you begin to investigate them. Instead of avoiding issues in order to make people comfortable, you dive into them. To paraphrase Armatrading,

You took me dancing 'cross the floor, cheek to cheek, but with a lover1 I could really move, really move I could really dance, really dance

The status-quo of the artworld is something we have to keep talking about, keep bringing up. Even if we don’t, it stares us in the face. Having moments and spaces that sidestep this predetermined Pākehā-ness nurtures conversation, collaboration, and generation. Western systems of education, success, and subsequently, art, frames the way the art community not only relates to one another, but how artwork is created and exists. Like stepping into a wānanga, stepping into a space that is not constrained by these systems is a welcome change.


* If any words are unfamiliar Māori Dictionary is an excellent resource

  • 1.

    I’m framing her use of the word ‘love’ and what it enables her to do as a link to the Hawaiian concept of Aloha. Besides it’s common meanings, the word Aloha holds within itself all one needs to know to interact rightfully in the natural world. This is a vigorous and dynamic concept often gets translated into English simply as ‘Love’. It encompasses romantic love but much more than that. It is passionate love, angry love, for whenua and people.