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A leader of the Tuhoe people's drive for self determination, Tamati Kruger, will the 2017 Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture on October 31. The lecture, at the University of Auckland, will be a historic opportunity for Tuhoe to explain their philosophy of Mana Motuhake to a national audience, and to report on how the approach is working out in practice since the iwi signed a settlement with the Crown in 2013.

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A leader of the Tuhoe people's drive for self determination, Tamati Kruger, will the 2017 Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture on October 31. The lecture, at the University of Auckland, will be a historic opportunity for Tuhoe to explain their philosophy of Mana Motuhake to a national audience, and to report on how the approach is working out in practice since the iwi signed a settlement with the Crown in...

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Artist Tame Iti is so impressed by the work of young creatives from James Street School he has invited them to exhibit their pieces at the Taneatua Gallery. 

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Artist Tame Iti is so impressed by the work of young creatives from James Street School he has invited them to exhibit their pieces at the Taneatua...

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The lack of civility so often ascribed to Tame Iti is now ascribed to the Crown and Government thanks to the activist's representation in the media, writes Dr Julie Cupples

We are all familiar with the white celebrities—George Clooney, Bob Geldof, Bono, Angelina Jolie—who publicly embrace humanitarian causes and become famous for their activism as well as their acting, musical or sporting talent. There is, however, an additional dimension to the growth of this kind of celebrity culture that we might call the celebritisation of indigenous activism.

In many parts of the world, indigenous activists who challenge the colonial and capitalist status quo, and often risk their lives to do so, have become part of celebrity culture. Like conventional celebrities, they appear across the mediascape and attract substantial civic engagement and solidarity.

These activists include Kayapo chief Raoni Metuktire from the Brazilian Amazon, Maya Guatemalan Rigoberta Menchú, Australian Aboriginal anti-mining activist Yvonne Margarula and the late Honduran Lenca activist Berta Cáceres. In this list, we might also include Tūhoe activist Tame Iti, often described in New Zealand media as the face of Māori activism.

The celebritisation of indigenous activists, while not immune to the commodification that drives all celebrity culture, suggests a quite different cultural politics potentially removed from the “white saviour” complex of conventional celebrity activism. 

While the celebritisation of indigenous activism might seem contrary to the collective nature of indigenous struggles, celebritised indigenous activists are generally not engaged in personal brand-building and might therefore help to increase support for the progressive movements for which they speak.

The dynamics of media convergence—the ways in which material crosses platforms, sometimes enabling a more democratic and participatory form of media culture to emerge—have produced interesting kinds of civic engagement around the sort of politics Iti espouses.

Important technological changes that make it easier for ordinary people to produce, share and modify media content have occurred alongside forms of postcolonial political redress in New Zealand and work together to generate new outcomes.

In the research my colleague Dr Kevin Glynn, of Massey University, and I are conducting, we are focusing on Iti as a media figure—that is, as both a flesh and blood person and an assemblage of the ways in which he is represented in the media.

Our research is part of a broader project supported by the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand, in which we are exploring how the media environment is changing and enabling, or disabling, new modes of democratisation and decolonisation. In particular, we are interested in the difference indigenous media such as Māori Television makes to these processes.

Iti has been fighting for Māori and Tūhoe sovereignty for more than four decades and is well known for a highly theatrical style of protest that frequently becomes primetime news. His methods have unsettled many New Zealanders (including some Māori), have often attracted condemnation from conservative sectors of the political establishment, and have been subject to the frequently distorting lens of the media.

Some of Iti’s protests, such as on Waitangi Day in 1995, became seared in the national imagination and enabled a largely monocultural and Pākehā-dominated media to drain them of their cultural complexity and reproduce colonial ideas about Māori threatening the social order.

His actions, especially those involving spitting, flag-shooting and buttock-baring (whakapohane), upset dominant Pākehā notions of civility and politeness.

In 2007, in the aftermath of the Urewera terror raids, Iti was depicted as a dangerous extremist and accused of terrorism. Such representations are, however, highly contested and unstable, in part because of how Iti himself has used the media to oppose them, and also because they have occurred in a rapidly-changing political and cultural context in which, as a result of hard-fought struggles, Māori have successfully managed to challenge important aspects of their colonial dispossession.

As the Tūhoe chief negotiator, Tamati Kruger noted during the Urewera trial that the current generation of New Zealanders is more comfortable with dialogue and debate around Treaty issues.

Furthermore, since 2004, Māori Television has been producing a different kind of programming and encouraging mainstream media to do better in their coverage of Māori stories.

Although Iti was jailed on firearms charges, the terrorism accusation was dropped and the police had to later apologise to Tūhoe for their heavy-handed and brutal behaviour. By the time of Tūhoe’s 2014 Waitangi Tribunal settlement, the Crown officially apologised for the many injustices they had inflicted on the iwi, “including indiscriminate raupatu, wrongful killings, and years of scorched-earth warfare”.

It is the Crown and the Government, rather than Tūhoe, that are now represented in the media as violent entities, refigured partly as a consequence of Iti’s activism. The lack of civility so often ascribed to Iti is now ascribed to the Crown and agents of the state.

The substantial social and other media activity around a 2015 documentary about Iti, The Price of Peace, suggests an expansion of his celebritisation, a growing appreciation for his activism, and a widening recognition that colonial violence continues in New Zealand.

While depictions of Iti as a “troublemaker” still circulate (in April this year TVNZ had to apologise for falsely accusing him of stealing a Colin McCahon painting), detailed analysis of coverage of him demonstrates that his media image is shifting in line with changes in New Zealand society as a whole.

The notion that New Zealand is a harmonious bicultural nation no longer broadly convinces and there is a growing willingness to interrogate police brutality and the excessive criminalisation of Māori. In other words, analysis of Tame Iti as a media figure clearly shows the ongoing unsettlement of New Zealand’s colonial confidence and a widening acknowledgement of the legitimacy of Māori grievances.

Dr Julie Cupples’ and Dr Kevin Glynn’s research is facilitated with the cooperation of Tame Iti and other Tūhoe.

Newsroom

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The lack of civility so often ascribed to Tame Iti is now ascribed to the Crown and Government thanks to the activist's representation in the media, writes Dr Julie Cupples We are all familiar with the white celebrities—George Clooney, Bob Geldof, Bono, Angelina Jolie—who publicly embrace humanitarian causes and become famous for their activism as well as their acting, musical or sporting talent. There is, however, an...

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Gathered together watching kapa haka and remembering his legacy is an apt way to send off one of Tuhoe's greatest cultural exponents, Te Makarini Temara. As people made their way to Hastings on Wednesday for the start of the national Kapa Haka competition, Te Matatini, news that Mr Temara had died was beginning to filter out.

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Gathered together watching kapa haka and remembering his legacy is an apt way to send off one of Tuhoe's greatest cultural exponents, Te Makarini Temara. As people made their way to Hastings on Wednesday for the start of the national Kapa Haka competition, Te Matatini, news that Mr Temara had died was beginning to filter...

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Tame Iti has returned to the Te Urewera plains where he was accused of running terrorist training camps 10 years ago - this time to focus on his artwork
 
Tame Iti is in his kitchen making toast.
 
He is back living in his home, a year back on tribal land after his time in a state prison. His family lives all around, brother out back, river at the front. 
 
"This is Tūhoe country girl," he says, pressing thick slabs of butter into fruit loaf. 
"You're right in the solar plexus of the Tūhoe nation."
 
He carries the plates of toast out to the porch, sinks into a cane chair. The deck looks out over his garden. Tomatoes are getting ripe. Books for his grandchildren - Green Eggs and Ham - are on the coffee table. He has a low-pitched, rasping giggle that turns his face young.
 
He looks around at the home he's built.
 
"Well, I've been here a year. Before that I was in jail. The state paints me to be this notorious bloody terrorist. Crazy stuff." The chuckle, again.
 
"It's non-compliant but it's an artwork. My home is my artwork." It's 10 years now since armed police squads descended on Ruatoki in the 2007 terror raids -  the largest 'anti-terrorism' operation in New Zealand's modern history. Police argued locals were running paramilitary training camps in Te Urewera. Five years since the court cases, where police tried first to bring terrorism charges, then downgraded to firearms offences, and participating in criminal group. Five years since Iti was sent to prison, and four since he was released. Around a year ago, after touring the country, he came back home to focus on his painting and start his own art gallery.
 
He pauses. "Have your toast first. Can't talk and eat at the same time."
 
Iti spent nine months in prison on the firearms charges. He isn't interested in dwelling on it now.
 
"Oh I'm over that stuff. Long time ago. You have to, you gotta let it go. You can't take ownership of something someone else fucked up. Not my fuckup, not my problem. They had a problem with me, with what I'm thinking - but what I'm thinking is not what they think I'm thinking."  He laughs again.
 
In 2014, the Police commissioner formally apologised to Tūhoe for wrong done to innocent people in the raids and the damage to the tribe's mana. Does he hold any animosity about it now? Tame shrugs.
 
"You don't have to be in jail to be in jail. A lot of people locked up, locked up in their own mentality. Can't let it go. I mean yes, in the early days I was fucked off. You're kind of sitting there, you lie in you bed thinking. But you don't want to take ownership of someone else's problem. I know I'm a free man."
 
Iti has moved on, but the story of Tūhoe nation and its run-ins with the Crown are writ large across the landscape here.
Tūhoe never signed the Treaty of Waitangi, the agreement between the British Crown and Māori chief from around the country.  "They didn't bother coming to see us," Iti says. "It doesn't matter anyway, whether you sign or not, you're still part of it."
But locals still call this Tūhoe nation. 
On the road from Ruatoki to Tāneatua, two girls on a horse ride bareback past the car. It's still a common mode of transport out here. 
"This here is the confiscation line," he gestures out the window. "This is where we cross over."
 
The Crown sent in troops along this line in 1866, confiscating 181,000 hectares of land from Tūhoe, Te Whakatohea and Ngati Awa. Tūhoe lost almost 6000 hectares, including  their most fertile flat land and access to the coast. Famines in the following years killed off more than 23 per cent of Tūhoe's population, most of them under 15 years old. 
When armed offenders squads arrived in 2007, they set up roadblocks just inside the confiscation line.
 
Down at the gallery, the words "Suppression of Rebellion Act 1863" are daubed in white paint on the weatherboards of the gallery wall. It's the legislation that was first used to confiscate Tūhoe land.  On the opposite wall, Iti's figures and more words spread across the outside out of the corner dairy, telling a more recent story: 
"At 5:45 am today my household was woken by the sound of a megaphone: resident of 2/2 Weahika St, exit through the back door with your hands above your head," the mural reads. "I was in a thin singlet and shorts and my mother in a nighty. We moved half asleep to the back door. I opened it and exited with my hands above my head. What I saw still shocks me: 10 members of the armed offenders squad aiming their guns at us."
 
It's via art that Iti is expressing his activism most often now. He doesn't see it as a shift.
 
"Art is an intricate part of activism. To be an active participant, to try and provoke people's thinking, to capture your audience. People that come and look at art, they're looking for something. They're looking for the moments, looking for the magic, they're looking for many things."
 
"Our job as artists is to dispel the illusions of fear. Fear comes from not really being clear on who you are—that's my view around it."
 
His works are often composed of hundreds of indistinct figures, silhouetted by light or obscuring it. Often hundreds of figures layered over each other, forming cresting waves and landscapes of their own. More recently, he's collaborated with portraitist Owen Dippie to put the faces of Tūhoe on walls and buildings around the region. Down the road, a kuia looks out at the war memorial.
 
Tāneatua Gallery sits just off the main road through town. The green weatherboards are flaking. Trina Love, the Gallery manager, wrangles a steady flow of visitors. Some from out of town, often Pakeha, asking about prices. Others are locals, stopping out back for a cup of tea, a smoke.
 
Out the back, there's a caravan—"the penthouse," says Trina Love—a stove, a fridge full of beer and a battered couch. There are a couple of people here working on a "decolonise your wardrobe" workshop with artist Ron Tekawa. Someone is boiling eggs.
 
"The gallery is a space. We are creating a space," Tame says. "I didn't really want an Auckland. I was creating a space where all kinds of people can come to.
 
"Our gallery in the old days was our tipuna whare, our meeting house, a gallery where they hang their work—the kōtukutuku, the kōwhaiwhai. And so the people in Tāneatua, Ruatoki, Ruatāhuna, they can come in here."
 
The exhibition rooms are often full with visitors, but the backyard of the gallery is its true hub. Later, there are pork bones for the pot and slabs of beer, and soon the air is thick and sweet with the smell of cooking meat and boilup.
 
"It took us a year and a half to capture the audience. Now, Auckland come to Tāneatua. Wellington come to Tāneatua. They come to the gallery at Tāneatua, we don't have to go to Wellington. The bulk of the people who purchase the work are mainly outsiders.
 
Three Pakeha women walk through. They've driven here all the way from Waiheke, and want to know if Tame has any exhibitions planned in Auckland.
He looks up over an egg sandwich. 
"See? Auckland come to Tāneatua."
 
In recent years, Tūhoe has won some major battles. Most significantly, in 2014, the settlement that awarded Tūhoe $170 million in reparation for stolen land. It included a Crown apology for past atrocities: wrongful killings, illegal land grabs, and scorched earth warfare. The land previously known as Te Urewera National Park and administered by the government was returned to Tūhoe control.
 
It means a new era for the tribe, Iti says—but colonisation forces dependency, and change will take time.
 
"We've never been in a position to be in charge of our own destiny. We've always been slave labour, a slave mentality, co-dependency syndrome… It's like being in a violent relationship with a man or a woman, you know—you still go back to it. They still go back to the same scenarios, and you say, 'Why you want to go and do that? Why you want to go and live with him, he's just going to give you another hiding. How many hidings you want?'
 
 
"But it's the same, it's codependency and sometimes people cannot let it go. They think, don't want to lose it and they still hold on. So the biggest challenge for us is the telling ourselves, we have to be in charge of our future. What does that look like?"
 
It's been 170 years since colonisation began in New Zealand, he muses. It'll take a little time.
 
"But the future for Tāneatua, for Ruatoki, it's an exciting time for us, and we haven't quite really started yet in my view."
 
"We're yet to create amazing things."
 
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Tame Iti has returned to the Te Urewera plains where he was accused of running terrorist training camps 10 years ago - this time to focus on his artwork   Tame Iti is in his kitchen making toast.   He is back living in his home, a year back on tribal land after his time in a state prison. His family lives all around, brother out back, river at the front.    "This is Tūhoe country girl,"...

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After visiting the iconic Te Wharehou o Tūhoe building in Tāneatua, 13-year-old Haeora Boynton-Rata, made a firm promise to become an architect. It's news that reached the Jasmax team, designers behind the one-of-a-kind building, and today Haeora's family found themselves spending the day with their architects.
 
Haeora Boynton-Rata spends much of his time drawing, and four years ago as a nine-year-old, he figured out a career path where he can do just that.
 
“I also like to build houses for my whanau and like these cool as houses and so I can get heaps of money and so I can help my whanau and that.”
 
But it was Haeora's more recent experience of Tūhoe's Whare Hou that reignited his aspiration to become an architect.
 
“It was like cool as, and I was amazed, and all of the designs and everything was made from the locals and that, and it was cool.”
 
His mother Tina wrote a letter to the team at Jasmax, the firm behind designing the one of a kind building in Taneatua thanking them for inspiring both her sons.
 
“They had Māori architects that were involved in the building so I wanted Haeora to be able to see a Māori male who is an architect. So that he could picture himself there maybe one day so he knows so he's seen the reality.”
 
Her letter led to an invite to her family by the Waka Maia team of Jasmax, the group responsible for infusing Māori concepts into the company's projects.
 
Jasmax representative Rameka Alexander-Tu'inukuafe  says, “We hope that he can walk away knowing that there's an opportunity, that he can see that there are young rangatahi Māori in the field. Also, it's about building relationships with te ao Pākehā as well and been able to work in a mainstream world as well.”
 
Waka Maia member Brendan Himona, also of Tūhoe descent worked on Te Whare Hou with the late architect principal, Ivan Mercep.
 
“You know I've worked for, studied for five years, and now I've worked for ten years and I haven't really seen another Tūhoe come through the same process.  I know there are others out there but for someone to approach us in the way his mother sent the letter you know that's really inspiring and refreshing.”
 
The drive behind Haeora's ambitions for becoming an architect is crystal clear.
 
“The only reason is just drawing and I like drawing and that,” says Haeora.
 
To acknowledge the opportunity to be inspired by some of the country's top architects, the family presented them with three stones from Tauranga river in Waimana blessed by their grandfather representing the past and the future.
 
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After visiting the iconic Te Wharehou o Tūhoe building in Tāneatua, 13-year-old Haeora Boynton-Rata, made a firm promise to become an architect. It's news that reached the Jasmax team, designers behind the one-of-a-kind building, and today Haeora's family found themselves spending the day with their architects.   Haeora Boynton-Rata spends much of his time drawing, and four years ago as a nine-year-old, he figured out a...

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