Writing as a grindstone. Finished writing, unfinished writing, writing ideas, things that I'll never get round to writing, other things. Grinding it out, grinding away. Writing some more.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The rugby world cup waka pavilion

This is a short post about the controversy around the waka pavilion that Ngāti Whatua have proposed “to help promote Maori culture and business during the Rugby World Cup” (Radio NZ news). The tone of the debate around the waka is very different to that about spending the other $265 million for promoting the world cup. Our media are embarrassing and predictable. Politicians behave opportunistically and immaturely because they want attention, unfortunately we also have mainstream media who don’t care whether a story is real or a beat up. Anti-Māori reactions are so easy to stir into something resembling a story. This is frustrating enough. It is particularly disgusting when Māori politicians use these opportunities to appeal to voters’ racism. Shane Jones, are you really that desperate?

What pisses me off most is that the immature way politicians and media behave takes space away from debating the more important issues that stories like this raise. There are issues around the waka pavilion, like there were around Te Papa’s pānui on the taonga Māori collection, that do need to be debated by Māori. Instead, we spend energy fending off racist and ignorant attacks.

Despite this, I’m still giving my two cents about the waka pavilion.

Rugby marketing is all into co-opting macho warrior images of Māori. The rugby world cup will see these images everywhere, re-enforcing a limiting and unhealthy idea of what it means to be Māori. If we are putting up our own symbols, it will be good to choose images that counter the hyper-masculine, dangerous and violent mainstream narrative. In 1994, Irihapeti Ramsden was questioning the use of waka tauā (in the sesquicentennial celebrations) as a primary symbol of Māori for similar reasons.
"How was the waka taua decision arrived at? Why were the symbols of war chosen to demonstrate the state of our race relations to the world? What actually happened was the powerful reinforcement of the natives versus civilisation argument.” (p 255 “Doing it for the mokopuna” in Ihimaera, Witi: Vision Aotearoa Kaupapa New Zealand. Bridget Williams Books, Wellington)

What have we learnt? The waka pavilion could be an opportunity for moving this discussion forward.

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