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.