Saturday, March 03, 2012


I'm now in Wellington as part of Creative New Zealand's Flying Friends programme - seeing Maori and Pacific Island work at the Festival here. I was on the same programme two years ago - except that then the city was warm and full of light, while today it is grey and soaking. We're supposed to go to the Governor-General's Garden Party later.....

Most of us who are here as international guests came directly from Adelaide. After the 600+ people there at APAM, and the relentless schedule, this all feels a lot more manageable. As happened two years ago, we were taken yesterday to the marae at Victoria University for a powhiri, and the Maori Elders welcomed us to the land. And then, something very remarkable happened. The day moved on to a mihimihi, with an invitation to us as guests to introduce ourselves and to say something in the sacred space of the marae. There were a number of First Nations artists from across the world there, and they all said how very special this event in Aotearoa seemed to them. A woman from San Francisco said it seemed to her that this country has acknowledged the indigenous culture in a way America could never do - that it is at ease with its emerging post-colonial identity. Merindah from the Australia Council's Indigenous board said that she had come especially to learn from the Maori about how to retain indigenous identity and assert it in the public space (echoes of our conversation with Rhoda the other day). I was able to thank the Elders for the gift they were offering us - a way forward for the world on the path of truth and reconciliation. Everyone who spoke said how very much at home they felt - even those of us who were as far from home as it is physically possible to be.

Last night I went to the theatre at the Te Papa Museum to see a new piece by The Conch, whose production Vula I loved at the Barbican some time ago. This piece is called Masi, and has a heavy autobiographical element, starting from photos from the courtship of Nina Nawalowalo's parents. He was a Fijian high chief - she was a middle-class girl from England. They play chess, like Ferdinand and Miranda. The show is very beautiful, with some wonderful Fijian dancers and musicians, and at the end the assertion of the Pacific identity as the whole theatre is transformed into a meeting house, like the one we'd been in earlier that day. There is an important indigenous energy coming from this part of the world.

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