In the aftermath of Empire: performances of indigenous re-empowerment in Aotearoa New Zealand
Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (The University of Auckland)
Empires rise, empires fall. In their aftermath, all over the world, indigenous survivors of European imperialism – if there are survivors – are left to count the cost, to regroup in order to recover the integrity and ensure the continuity of their societies and cultures, following periods of intense subjugation. In the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) the British Crown guaranteed New Zealand’s indigenous people ownership of their properties and accorded them ‘all the rights and privileges of British subjects.’ What followed, however, was a long and sordid history of sequestration and disempowerment until the Treaty of Waitangi Act of 1975 provided the legal instrument by which the dispossessed could seek redress, politicised Maori and ignited a resurgence of Maori nationalism and culture. Progressive re-empowerment has been expressed in epic socio-political cultural performances such as the Hikoi or Land March of 1975, the Foreshore and Seabed Hikoi of 2004, fierce Ngai Tuhoe resistance, and the ‘repatriation’ of the impressive carved ancestral meeting house, Mataatua, to its people by way of Sydney, Melbourne, London and Dunedin, and acquiring a carved representation of Phar Lap on the way. There are lessons to be drawn from such post-imperial events for colonised indigenous people around the world.
Jonathan Mane-Wheoki is an art historian, architectural historian, cultural historian and curator, and is especially noted as a pioneer in the development of contemporary Maori and Pacific art and art history.