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Explosive Expression: Remember State Terror Raids

Explosive Expression: Remember the State Terror Raids

Bell Murphy

“Koia te rereketanga, ka kitea te ao nga hara o te karauna ki nga Uriwhenua kei Afghanistan me Iraq. Kaore e kitea te ao to tatou nei mamae o Ngai Tuhoe.”
Tame Iti


Two years ago, on October 15 2007, Operation Eight, the first series of police actions under the 2002 Terrorism Suppression Act, began. Over a week long period, sixteen people were arrested, including well known Tuhoe activist Tame Iti, and for most of those arrested, trials are still under way. Since that date, controversy has surrounded the arrests particularly concerning the assumed right of citizens to speak back to the government. The arrests, and subsequent trials, have also invited criticism from noted Ngati Kahungunu / Ngati Porou lawyer, Moana Jackson over the striking similarity between the TSA legislation and the 1863 Suppression of Rebellion Act, and the colonial purposes for which that act was employed.

Since Operation Eight, New Zealanders have been unable to ignore the fact that the long standing cultural and racial conflicts of their own nation are now part of a global political climate – the climate of the “War on Terror”. As tensions over tangata whenua representation in Auckland's proposed “Super City” increase, and as Prime Minister John Key prepares to send further New Zealand troops to Afghanistan, such knowledge is as relevant now as it was then.

 Gil Hanley - Hikoi
Gil Hanley - Hikoi 1

The event:
Over the week running October 13th to October 18th, Explosive Expression, a collaborative exhibition and series of workshops, culminating in an auction on October 17th, will commemorate the events of Operation Eight, now frequently referred to as the 'State Terror Raids' with proceeds from the auction going to court costs of those arrested and undergoing trial. 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 cultural conflicts born out of colonization in Aotearoa. The exhibition is to be opened by October 15th by arrestee, artist and long-time Tuhoe activist Tame Iti, on October 13th at Thistle Hall, in Wellington, and the auction, Saturday 17th October, is to be MCed by ex-MP Nandor Tanczos.

Participating artists:
The historical relationship of art and activism is a venerable one: Pablo Picasso, in reference to his 1937 work 'Guernica', told the world “painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an act of war,” and as many of the artists contributing to Explosive Expression have demonstrated over the course of their careers, creative resistance is alive and well in Aotearoa too. Some of the artists featured are:

Tame Iti: While perhaps better known for his activism, Iti has also had a lengthy and varied artistic career. His most recent artistic endeavor has been a series of Te Reo Maori performances of Shakespeare in the United Kingdom, and his painting work has been displayed in the Wellington City Gallery.

Ngaahina Hohaia: Hohaia is this year’s recipient of a Te Waka Toi Maori Arts Board of Creative New Zealand Scholarship. Hohaia's work draws on both traditional practices and contemporary ideas, demonstrating the interweaving of cultural ideas in the social landscape of New Zealand. Her practice embraces media from sculpture through to jewelry and adornment. She has exhibited throughout New Zealand at
Aveia Gallery (Auckland), Pataka Gallery (Porirua) and Expressions
Art Centre (Upper Hutt).

Tame Iti -
Tame Iti - Self-portrait

James Robinson: Robinson has recently returned to New Zealand after a warm critical reception in the United States, were in 2007 he was the recipient of the prestigious Wallace Art Residency in New York. Robinson's work examines the tense impact of the contemporary world upon the nature of being, and his practice utilizes everything from soot to poetry in aid of this investigation.

Gil Hanly: Hanly's camera has been present at all significant protest movements in New Zealand's recent history, Since the 1970's, she has photographically documented the H.A.R.T movement, the struggle for women's rights, Bastion Point, and the recent hikoi. She provides Explosive Expression with a homegrown documentary context for creative resistance.

Shane Hammond: Hammond has tended to resist gallery exhibition, instead exhibiting in alternative spaces around the world, from Auckland to Barcelona, including theatres, eateries and the headquarters of Amnesty International. Hammond's work addresses the relationship of New Zealand to the global sphere, the disharmony of modern living, and calls to the communicative power of symbolism.

Chanz Mikaere: Mikaere is a Rotorua based artist who works in painting, sculpture and design. Her work is concerned with power, oppression, resistance, and the subjugated status of Maori women in the wake of colonization.

A full list of participating artists can be found here.


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