New Show with Martin Awa Clarke Langdon - Te reo Pākehā

Review of show:

Date Paintings

In 2012 upon entering England the border agent at customs check point was very firm, reminding me that I was only to stay in the island kingdom no longer than my 90 day holiday visa. Should I explain than both my parents paternal and maternal lines trace back to England and so I am from here? I decide to just agree and move forward into my hostile ancient home. I’m aware of how citizenship works, and genealogy is not it.

So, I am positioned back in Aotearoa. The only home I have known, having to embrace the feeling of being in exile. Māori have found a way to deal with this exile. They hold Hawaiki within their identity story. A placeless place that is over the great ocean of Kiwa. It is a beautiful and complex understanding of coming from one place but belonging in another.

I am, of course, envious. Hawaiki is a placeless place that the dead return to, it is real and not real at the same time, there is mystery there which is not to be unpacked or investigated by non-māori. England however, is a locatable place that I’m not even allowed to spend two seasons in. When I die my spirit goes nowhere. Or at least if it does it is not in any cultural story of whiteness I have found. Perhaps the best story I’ve heard is that your soul just moves to another suburb. So, in the Heideggerian sense, to focus on dasein, being-towards-death, I have realized that if England won’t have me and I’m to be a happy exile within the island paradise perhaps it is time to do away with British/Eurocentric time-thinking all together.

I’m not suggesting throwing the baby out with the bath water but maybe just a readjustment, to time and space. To really resolve this tricky identity thing ‘we’ (white skinned, non-Māori or European/British heritage) might begin when our story begins. Or place making and our place losing. The loss of England and Europe via emigration to a wholly new and strange place. To begin it is important is to realise that ‘we’ are not living within a singular narrative but are merely an easily sunburned addition to the original story of Aotearoa.

This has shown itself as a western overwriting of Māori from its beginning. Colonization was and is a large subplot to this story and it tends to drown out all other voices. But as part of owning a story of identity, a real story, these date painting began to consider the beginning of pākehā space and time from 6 October 1769. The sighting of New Zealand, I say New Zealand because that’s important to the prologue. I have begun a new calendar system that starts from that fateful day to establish a way of tracking pākehā presence.


The first year, followed by the acronym A.C. which plays with B.C. / A.D. timelines, these could stand for After Cook, After Contact, After Collision or After Colonialism. The last title I am dubious to use, not because of its baggage, that should be addressed and made aware of on a daily basis, especially those who continue to benefit from its lingering imprint that seems to mark everything if you look deep enough.

I am uncomfortable with its use because colonialism continues, and it has not stopped since first collision so therefore cannot be referred to in the past tense. So far there has not been an after colonization in Aotearoa.

I mention the prologue because I have not used the sighting of New Zealand by Abel Tasman as the beginning. Mostly because he didn’t set foot on land. And his only encounter with Māori was a violent one. I am perhaps being naïve by trying to reset time in order to give pākehā a second chance at redeeming themselves and endearing themselves to tangata whenua. Spoiler alert, they didn’t. The dates in the show note 248 and 249 years since Cooks landing based upon the Māori calendar’s new year falling within the pākehā months of June and July.

I have used te reo māori because it is the first language. It seems only right to use the language that was the only language spoken right up until that moment of contact.

I have used Obelisk typeface designed by Alistair McCready to entrench the idea of carving and engraving of messages into solid objects so this ‘fictional’ time is locked into the world through the production of the paintings and the artist’s willingness to hold value in this way of recording a new time and new understanding of a pākehā or non-Māori position in time and space.

Māori _____ flags

These copper plates are the same size as the field notes taken by P Reveirs and William Francis Gordon of flags ‘captured’ or ‘confiscated’ by British militia during the New Zealand land wars. Their titles, taken from the Te Papa digital archives are etched into the surface and all forgo tohutō and all use the pejorative world 'rebel'. They are polished only once in their lives. After that, they must be handled without gloves by anyone moving, hanging or holding them. The copper will hold a mark when it is touched, the oils on your hands are a marker and will reinforce the idea that everything you do, all actions, all language, leaves a mark.

Everything you touch/contact is changed by your presence. Whether you realize it or not, unconscious or not it is changed by you.

Like digging up ancient monuments or ruins, these works recharge an understanding of cultural views during a formative time of the colonial nation as it stands today. The deceptive subtleties of language continues to elude discussion and clarity and therefore remain undisputed or unprocessed and therefore still retains negative power. Why are these not titled freedom flags or opposition flags or even flags of faith denominations? These works are designed to record the marks and touch of its human collaborators. It will not be cleaned, and the work will oxidize over time.

So maybe these works are just a note to the viewer and maker that whatever they touch, that thing is altered and reacts, it changes and is changed by your presence and the way you decide to give it language. It could be an environmental aspect, but this is more of an historical perspective. That my very presence in research is leaving a mark upon history and it is my responsibility to make sure I am confident and comfortable with my residue.

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